Marine Bird Spotlight – Hutton’s Shearwaters (also known as the Titi)
The Hutton’s Shearwater is an endangered seabird endemic to Kaikōura. Kaikōura is the only place in the world that the Hutton Shearwaters breeds, high in the Kaikōura Ranges at elevations between 1200 to 1800 metres.
This species of shearwater are a medium-sized brown-and-white shearwater, around 36-38cm in length and can have a wingspan of about 75cm and are thought to live for about 30 years.
During spring and summer, large flocks can often be spotted just offshore from the Kaikōura coastline flying low over the sea or rafted up in very large groups on the water. They consume a variety of crustaceans and small fish.
Each day adult birds travel approximately 20 kilometres to the sea, to eat fish and krill which are later fed to their young. On their downhill flight they travel at up to 154 km/h, reaching the ocean in as little as seven minutes. The return trip takes around 38 minutes, with 1200 metres or more in altitude to be gained with a bellyful of fish.
Habitat loss and predation by introduced mammals is the main threat to remaining Hutton’s shearwater populations. Deer and chamois are known to trample nesting burrows, stoats and cats will eat young birds and eggs, and pigs would be a major threat if they reached the breeding colonies.
The two remaining breeding colonies are confined to a small area, making the birds extremely vulnerable to events such as landslides or predation which could lead to extinction.
To help secure the long-term survival of Hutton’s shearwater/tītī, a third colony (Te Rae o Atiu) was established on the Kaikōura Peninsula in 2005, to ensure long-term survival. This was a joint project by Te Runanga o Kaikōura, Whale Watch and the Department of Conservation, with support from Forest & Bird and the local community. While the Peninsula is significantly lower in altitude than existing colonies, the fact that seabirds are known to have bred here previously suggests this is a suitable site.
To learn more about the great work being down at the Kaikōura Peninsula site by the Hutton’s Shearwater Trust along with more information about these beautiful birds please check out the following website www.huttonsshearwater.org.nz