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Cornwallis Petrelheads protect peninsula's vulnerable birds

Published: 4 November 2019

The grey-faced petrel, with its black eyes and charcoal beak, has become a much-loved member of the Cornwallis Peninsula community.

These night-loving birds nest in the soft earth on cliff faces, putting their chicks and eggs at risk from pests like rats, weasels, stoats, and possums.

In response, a group of local volunteers calling themselves the 'Petrelheads' banded together to protect the birds. They formed under SCOW, an incorporated society who have worked to successfully support various projects around the Cornwallis Peninsula.

"The name reflects our initial focus, which is these vulnerable birds," says the group's leader, Alex Duncan.

Since the beginning of their pest control programme in 2016, the group has been actively working to manage pests in the area. They're supported by Auckland Council park rangers and biodiversity teams who have provided technical expertise as well as 100 DOC200 traps.

The Petrelheads check their 160 traps across the Cornwallis Peninsula regularly.

The work benefits other rare species which visit or are already established in the area too, including New Zealand fur seals, reef herons, fern birds, and green geckos.

"In the last 12 months, we've managed to humanely trap more than 800 rats, stoats and other pests," Alex says.

The programme is planned to be completed in 2020, leaving 300 hectares under intensive pest management.

"The Cornwallis and adjacent Spragg peninsulas will complement the sanctuaries on the Awhitu Peninsula, providing a stepping stone for migrating native birds."

Read more: Environment Pest Free

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