Ducks Unlimited NZ

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Tuesday, 02 April 2019 21:16

Bittern count reassessed

New research highlights the importance of New Zealand’s wetlands for one of our most secretive native birds, the Australasian bittern or matuku, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said on World Wetlands Day, 2 February.

GPS tracking of matuku/bittern has, for the first time, revealed that it flies more than 300km between wetlands in the eastern South Island as well as large distances between North Island wetland sites. 

Previously it was thought bittern ranged only small distances from their home wetlands.

DU is one of several partners in the Department of Conservation-led research, which shows that bittern rely on a network of wetlands to feed and breed in. 

It also means matuku/bittern may be rarer than previously thought as birds have probably been double-counted in local counts in different parts of the country.

In the study, male bittern were tracked flying 330km from Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere in Canterbury to wetlands near Blenheim during the breeding season last spring. 

They also flew 117km from Whangamarino wetland in north Waikato to south Kaipara and from Whangamarino to Kaituna in the Bay of Plenty.

Published in Issue 176