28 April 2009

Weka

Weka foraging among wrack, Kapiti IslandOn Kapiti Island last Sunday the weka (Gallirallus australis) we encountered seemed largely preoccupied with fossicking among the leaf litter and — in the case of this bird — the wrack along the shore. Only one bird lived up to the species' reputation by sprinting from the undergrowth to investigate the packs we'd placed on the ground (securely closed, I hasten to add).

Weka are roughly the size of a small chook (hence the old, now-seldom-used common name "woodhen"). They were introduced to Kapiti over a century ago (pdf; 192 Kb) but when rats and possums were eradicated from the island, weka numbers began to increase and they're now abundant. Four subspecies are recognised. According to The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand (2005), weka on Kapiti are the western subspecies (australis), found naturally in the north and west of the South Island; however, Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand states both western and North Island (greyi) subspecies (and hybrids) are found on Kapiti. The bird in the photo was smaller than the inquisitive individual we'd met a few minutes earlier and its iris was more orange than the red of the earlier bird. Whether the differences were genetic or because the bird in this photo might have been younger, I don't know.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

5 comments:

the watercats said...

It's brilliant being able to look in on wildlife on the other side of the planet. It urges us to look at our own critters as if seeing them for the first time and realise how interesting and beautiful they are. cheers!

Relatively Retiring said...

Another characterful individual. As Zhoen has remarked, you have such a talent for showing the gleam in the eye!

Zhoen said...

Had to look up fossicking and chock. Good words to know, both.

Zhoen said...

Sorry, chook.

pohanginapete said...

Watercats, I'm delighted to be able to show some of these marvellous birds to people who might not get the chance to see them in real life. I'll be posting more photos from Kapiti over the next few days. Cheers :^)

RR, weka in particular usually seem to have an intense, slightly scary look about them. This was no exception, and a photo to follow will prove my point :^)

Zhoen, yes, I like those words, and "fossick" seems to suit weka very well. A study on Kapiti found they spend over 90% of daylight hours searching for food.