Kōkako have been sighted for the first time near the Cossey Dam at Hūnua Falls.

Auckland Council Regional Park rangers are excited because the siting was eight kilometres – a long way for this less than perfect flyer - from the current Kōkako Management Area.

Regional Parks Senior Ranger Miranda Bennett says it shows the mahi that has been being done for 30 years on protection and recovery is working.

“This is a great reward for the dedicated volunteers who give thousands of hours every year to pest control. One of our goals has always been to see kōkako spread and populate other Hūnua areas. 

“Most encounters outside the KMA have been much closer to it. If we are seeing more kōkako around Hūnua Falls, then public encounters are more likely, because the area is more accessible to the public.”

She says the sighting is another tick for using aerial 1080 to manage pest animals.

“We do not downplay people’s concerns, but this shows wider park pest control is making a larger area of the park safe for these birds to reside and hopefully breed.”

Two Kokako birds.

Kōkako are not strong fliers, hopping across branches and to the top of trees before gliding to the next, so Bennett says it would have taken considerable time for a young bird to make its way to the dam.

“The young bird is likely looking for a mate in new territory of its own. The KMA population is doing well, and we are seeing young birds moving beyond the managed areas, although most have stayed nearby.”

The KMA comprises about 1,500 hectares of Hūnua Ranges Regional Park protected forest, an adjacent pest control area connecting another 500 hectares.

Since 1995 the project area has been managed through a pest animal ground bait and trapping programme delivered by park rangers and dedicated volunteers, with Council carrying out three or four-yearly 1080 operations - the last in 2022.

The project had a small founding population, just one breeding pair and 23 individuals in 1994, but has been supplemented through relocations.

At the 2022 census the population was 259 pairs - New Zealand’s third largest mainland kokako population.

Watch video here.

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