Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Rare falcons take roost in city park

MEMBERS of a threatened species have made the middle of Gisborne their home and no one is more delighted than Whataupoko residents Keith and Margaret Scholes.

Four New Zealand falcons — Karearea, moved into the district in the middle of March.

The four, thought to be a family of two adults and two young, live in the Cave Road-Riverside Road area and every day base themselves in Whataupoko Park opposite the Scholes’ home.

There are only 400 pairs in New Zealand. Mr Scholes, who has lived in the area most of his life, has never seen the birds there before.

“Never in the 60-odd years have I seen them here and now they are backwards and forwards every day. They seem very settled here.”

The vantage point of a high pine tree with dead top branches is their most common day-time spot.

“Perching at the top against the dark dead wood, they just look so regal,” says Mrs Scholes.

“They are the biggest time-wasters — when they first arrived I spent the whole week sitting on the porch looking through the telescope.”

Hunters not scavangers, the falcons operate in pairs and one will capture a bird up to the size of a thrush and they transfer the prey by dropping it mid-air from one to the other.

“Once we watched one of them eat a thrush in a tree only five metres away. They are not at all bothered by our presence or by park users including dogs.”

A catch, arrival and departure is accompanied by a low, coarse screech that sends the Scholes looking to the sky to see what the falcons are up to. Watching the birds’ escapades is a daily thrill.

“It’s not every day you get to see a threatened species.”

The New Zealand falcon is described as a “fast and fearless hunter” by Wingspan, a bird of prey trust. They are capable of taking prey up to six times their own weight and mainly feed on small birds, insects and rodents.

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