Feisty flightless bird spotted for the first time in decades in area of New Zealand

Photo from Andrea Lightfoot via Unsplash

A flightless bird with a strong personality was found hundreds of miles away from home in New Zealand — the first local sighting of the creature in decades.

Conservation experts are confused.

Pete Andreoli, who lives in the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island, “did a double take” when he saw a video of something in his son’s backyard, according to a Tuesday, Jan. 24, news release from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.

Strutting through the backyard was a weka — a large brown flightless bird known for its feisty personality, officials said.

Andreoli immediately knew the bird was in an unfamiliar location. Using a long pole and net, he trapped the bird and put it in the shed, then called the Department of Conservation, the release said.

Weka are native to New Zealand and common in mountainous areas of the country’s South Island, the department said. The birds used to inhabit the Taranaki region of the North Island but disappeared by 1938. Conservation officials attempted to reintroduce the species in the 1970s, but the efforts were unsuccessful. Weka haven’t been seen in Taranaki for decades.

A few thousand weka still live near the northern coast of the North Island, according to the Department of Conservation. This area, however, is about 260 miles northeast of Taranaki.

But somehow one of these flightless birds appeared in Andreoli’s son’s backyard, the release said.

The bird’s journey to Taranaki is a mystery, but “it’s possible the weka were released illegally,” officials said.

The Department of Conservation picked up the bird and took it to a local zoo to be taken care of and studied. DNA tests will identify where the bird originated and where to release it, officials said.

“Because of its scavenging habit, the weka occupies a problematic conservation niche,” conservation ranger Cameron Hunt explained in the release. “If weka were to get on Taranaki Maunga they pose a real risk to the native wildlife while the ecosystems and populations are still in such a recovery phase.”

Conservation officials suspect another weka may be somewhere in Taranaki.

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