Falcon ‘killing machines’ prey on native birds and pets in Tasman


Dale and Lauraine Peterson saw a falcon sitting in an evergreen tree on their property in Brightwater.

Laraine Peterson

Dale and Lauraine Peterson saw a falcon sitting in an evergreen tree on their property in Brightwater.

According to locals, a pair of “killing machine” hawks in Tasman made a literal meal of native and companion birds.

Brightwater resident Janice Gibbs said with others she had noticed two hawks, or karearea, covering the “beat” between Hope and Wakefield in recent months.

She said that since the hawks arrived, she had noticed that there were less tui and bellbirds in the area.

An adult falcon.

Provided

An adult falcon.

Gibbs and her husband tend the Snowdens Bush Scenic Preserve in Brightwater, planting, weeding and trapping pests.

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“We know of people who have had their doves caught and there have been several other attempts to get people to lock up their birds because they would take them.”

She thought the hawks nest around River Terrace Rd and might be hatchlings from last year.

“They are quite territorial and the adults will chase the young from the area when they mature.”

They had seen hawks hunting native birds in Snowdens Bush, but the couple had not witnessed a murder.

The few native hawks are New Zealand’s fastest animals, able to fly at speeds in excess of 100 kilometers per hour. They only eat live prey.

The Department of Conservation estimates that there are only 5,000 to 8,000 karearea spread around New Zealand.

Gibbs said that over the past few months the hawks have “really shied away from this.”

“It’s a catch 22, we want more but we don’t.”

Brightwater resident Laraine Peterson said it was “extraordinary” to see the hawks come so close and that she saw them sitting on top of an evergreen tree on her property.

However, she hadn’t seen the hawks in recent weeks and wasn’t sure if anything had happened to them.

“It was pretty exciting while they were here, we absolutely loved the raptors,” she said. “I mean they’re just amazing hunters.”

She said not everyone was happy to see them and that she knew two neighbors who had pet birds that had been targeted by the hawks.

“We didn’t actually see it happen, but we did see remnants of white feathers in different places,” she said. “They’re so fast, that’s what they were born for.”

Environmentalist Will Rickerby, who has spent the past 18 years restoring native bush in a Richmond Hillls ravine, said he occasionally sees hawks in the area.

He thought there was a breeding pair at the top of the Marsden Valley and several years ago the birds of prey had been sighted in Richmond.

“The hawks fly through the tops of the bushes making a clack-clack-clack, hoping to flush out a panicked bird and the next thing, it’s just a cloud of feathers.”

He was surprised to learn that they were in Wakefield and said it was a bit frustrating to hear that they had killed kereru, responsible for dispersing the seeds.

“It would be nice if the native birds really overflowed before they arrived, it’s a bit offbeat,” he said.

“They have to find their own balance, don’t they.”


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