On the wing – local birdlife

Here are a few recent bird photos, plus one not-so-cuddly feline.

Feral cats are widespread in New Zealand, living in a wide variety of habitats – coastal areas, farmland, forests, riverbeds, sub-alpine environments and on islands.

The first cats in New Zealand arrived with early European explorers in 1769. Ships’ cats helped control the large number of unwanted rats aboard voyaging vessels.

More than 50 years after cats were introduced to New Zealand, a feral cat population was observed to be established. It was slowly expanding around the country.

Cats were also introduced to over 30 offshore islands, from Raoul Island in the north to Rakiura/Stewart Island in the south, as well as the Chathams group, and subantarctic islands. They have since died out or been eradicated from nearly half of these islands.

Feral cats have a major impact on New Zealand’s native and non-native species. The basis of their diet alters with the habitat they live in. They feed on rabbits, birds and bird eggs, rats, hares, bats, lizards, mice, wētā and other insects.

Populations of endangered kakī/black stilt, wrybill and black-fronted terns are greatly impacted by cat predation in braided riverbeds in the central South Island.

Grand and Otago skink populations are at critically low levels in Central Otago, mainly due to cat predation.

On offshore islands, forest birds and sea birds make up a large part of the feral cat diet. In the 1980s, all kākāpō were removed urgently from Stewart Island/Rakiura to stop predation by cats. Cats swiftly exterminated all tīeke/saddleback from Hauturu/Little Barrier Island and Stephens Island/Takapourewa.

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