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Chatham Island Taiko


Chatham Island Taiko The Chatham Island Taiko (Magenta Petrel) is one of the world's most endangered seabirds with a total world population of around 120 individuals. Found only on the Chatham Islands, 800 kilometres east of New Zealand, it was believed to have been extinct for 111 years until it was dramatically rediscovered on New Years Day 1978.

Since then a dedicated group of volunteers, landowners, New Zealand's Department of Conservation and The Chatham Island Taiko Trust have been working to learn more about the Taiko and to bring it back from the brink of extinction.

The Chatham Island taiko is a large bird standing at 38cm and weighing 475g. It is dark sooty grey-brown all over except for the underparts from breast to undertail which are white. The bill is black and the legs and feet are pink. When flying over the nesting area or when handled Chatham Island taiko are known to make 'or-wik', 'si si si' or 'orrrr' sounds.

Of the 24 species of seabird which breed on the Chatham Islands six of them are New Zealand's most threatened seabirds while several species have already become extinct on the island following human settlement. The Chatham Island taiko is now regarded as the world's rarest seabird and is classed as a critically endangered endemic with a total population of 100-140 birds and only 6 known nesting burrows.

The Chatham Island taiko should not, however, be confused with the taiko which breeds only on Little (100 pairs) and Great Barrier Islands (800 pairs). The taiko also known as the Parkinson's petrel (Procellaria parkinsoni), is also a threatened endemic. The birds were once found breeding on inland mountain ranges in the North Island and northwest South Island where early Maori and European used to harvest the chicks. As on the Chathams, introduced predators are probably the main cause behind the demise of this species. Today there are thought to be 3000-4000 birds in total. The taiko is larger and darker than the Chatham Island variety with a bluish yellow bill. Taiko are normally seen alone but flocks of up to 300 birds have been sighted feeding around cetaceans or fishing boats off the North Island and west towards Australia where they are sometimes caught and drowned in longlines and nets. Between July and October the taiko takes a long winter trip migrating to eastern tropical Pacific from west of the Galapagos Islands to southern Mexico and northern Peru.

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