Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why do bitterns "freeze" on roads ?

From: Chris Gaskin
To: BIRDING-NZ@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Tue, 12 April, 2011 7:33:11 PM
Subject: [BIRDING-NZ] Interesting encounter on the way ...

Hi all,
Heading to Tawharanui this morning for a meeting, came round a corner on the low flats area (just after Sandpiper Lodge and before the windy climb through the woods) and found a bittern standing in the middle of the road, beak skywards. Invisible - yeah right!
The bird rocketed off, flapped to the side of the road to land in the grassy verge. I stopped, great views. When I pointed the bird out to some people in the car behind, all I got was ...... Stunning bird. Check out the drainage ditches leading off from the road next time you're out there.
When I mentioned this at the meeting Maurice (one of the rangers) commented he'd see one the day before in the little tidal inlet beside the road (opposite the Lagoon). Good place for banded rail too.
Happy birding-

My reply to Chris's posting -
Hello Chris- thanks for your posting. Bitterns are vulnerable to being road-killed and suffer form collision events- which I suspect have increased as the bird's habitats have become increasingly fragmented. Also each year several birds are brought into bird rescue centres having been involved with car- over head power line collision events. I am working on analysing data from the National bittern database at the moment about causes of bittern mortality- with Colin O'Donnell. When they freeze on roads it doesn't help their cause- also with such a small population now ( 750 ?) it makes these records of collision events more important for this nationally threatened species. The birds visual fields may also may it vulnerable to collision events. While doing the National bittern database which I worked on for a year for DOC I recognised Northland and the Waikato as being NZ;'s two most important conservancies for bittern. If interested Chris I have a bittern blog -

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