Rook Round Up 2016
The most successful Greater Wellington Region rook control season in recent years has wrapped up with a total of one hundred and ten known rookery sites inspected. This year eighty-three nests at these sites were treated with only thirty-three containing eggs or chicks. The remaining fifty empty nests would have been built by male birds that failed to attract a mate. The programme remains on track to achieve eradication of rooks in the Wellington region by 2025.
"We have the rook-free greater Wellington target of 2025 in our sights! Ten years sounds a long time - but that's only ten more opportunities to round them all up. We'll be hoping to make another big dent in numbers next year and we are always keen to hear from anyone who believes they have rooks on their property."
Severe weather in recent years has had an impact on the eradication programme. Unseasonably severe winds during the 2014 and 2015 breeding seasons saw nests destroyed and the birds dispersed.
"We weren't quite sure what we would be dealing with this year. The last two seasons have been extremely windy and we couldn't undertake any control through September and October, this pest bird's nesting and breeding season," says GWRC Biosecurity Officer Steve Playle. "We've done a thorough job of seeking out the nests, and again had the support of local landowners and agricultural contractors"
This pest bird was introduced to NZ around 150 years ago. By the 1970s the national population had increased to tens of thousands of birds that were having a significant impact on arable crops and pasture quality. Large groups can decimate precision planted crops such as maize, or peas. Regional councils around the country began control programmes that have reduced numbers significantly. Today isolated pockets of rook populations remain. GWRC works with neighbouring regional councils to monitor and control this pest bird.
"Our records show that in the early 1980's we were finding twenty or so nests, with a peak of nearly 900 in 1994. We got much better at seeking out these secretive pest birds and keeping a track on them. These pest birds are smart - we got smarter pretty quickly!"
Each year the GWRC Biosecurity Officers revisit known sites and ask for the public's help to identify any more. In 2016 three rookeries reactivated and three new ones were identified.
"Our data is comprehensive and our processes are streamlined. Finding rook nesting sites takes information and knowledge - and treating them is a fine art. It's not possible to ask landowners to manage control themselves. If not handled carefully these birds will disperse to more remote locations which is the last thing we want."
To report the location of rooks or rookeries, or to find out more about rooks, contact a Biosecurity Officer at Greater Wellington, 06 378 2484 or 04 526 4133.
Go to www.gw.govt.nz/rooks/ to download a factsheet.
Contact: Media phone: 021 914 266
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