Work is underway on an ambitious project to establish a new kororā, little blue penguin colony on Waiheke’s northern coastline which penguin biologist, Professor John Cockrem, believes is a first for the world’s smallest penguin species.
The new project sprung out of a surprise find last November when chicks were discovered being raised in nesting boxes used by Waiheke’s Native Bird Rescue for its kororā rehabilitation and soft-release programme.
When Native Bird Rescue founder Karen Saunders told the Massey University professor about the chicks in the nesting boxes he believed they were the offspring of kororā that had come through the rehabilitation programme and had themselves been released via the same nesting boxes. His theory is that those penguins grew up and returned to the site to breed.
John suggested it could be possible to establish a new colony on Waiheke with the kororā chicks that come through the centre.
For the past five years NBR has been caring for and rehabilitating kororā chicks and adults found starving, abandoned or injured on Waiheke, says Karen. And the success of the programme has meant all kororā rescued in the Auckland region are now brought to the Waiheke centre where they are nursed to health, gain weight and given opportunities to practice swimming ahead of their release back into the wild.
Karen says once grown and ready for release, the chicks are placed into nesting boxes near the coast, like the one where the new chicks were discovered last November. There they are looked after for a week before their release. • Erin Johnson
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