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Flight of the falcons

Quentin after release. PHOTOS/PETE MONK

Call for sightings of soaring karearea pairs

[email protected]

The Martinborough Karearea/Bush Falcon Project is calling for sightings of the native birds of prey.

Martinborough’s Jane Lenting and the bush falcon project have been releasing karearea, since 2014.

Palliser Estate and other vineyards in the region were looking for ways to fend off birds from eating the grapes.

The project was also supported by Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua, South Wairarapa Biodiversity Group, and Wines from Martinborough, as well as volunteers.

After obtaining Wildlife Act and translocation permits from the Department of Conservation they have released 10 falcons in the past five years.

Karearea have a population of 5000-8000 nationally.

The chicks came from Wingspan in Rotorua after being initially reared by their parents.

After health checks, they were banded, had transmitters fitted, and were “hack” released.

This involved putting them in a wooden box on stilts in a vineyard, ‘imprinting’ their new view and home.

“This imprinting helped keep the falcons close by after release, at least while they were still young,” Lenting said.

“The transmitters were removed when the falcons were a few months old, once it was known the birds had survived the initial, most hazardous period following release.”

Of the 10 falcons released, seven were able to be followed through their first year by reported sightings.

Of these six were alive after 12 months and one was killed as a juvenile.

This is a considerably higher success rate than in the wild where under 12 per cent of falcon chicks survive past the first 12 months.

Sadly, two falcons died aged between one and two years old – one to electrocution and one to predation after being injured.

Honour has lived over Martinborough with mate Quentin for three season.

The oldest male Quentin, and female Honour, paired up and have gone through three breeding seasons in Martinborough.

One known female chick is known to have come from the successful pair with possibilities of more as a clutch can contain up to four eggs.

There have also been two other pairings with released and wild falcons, in Featherston and Carterton.

The chick offspring of Quentin and Honour is now of breeding age and could make up half of one of these pairs.

Despite the released falcons’ start in an aviary, hack released falcons end up truly wild and readily pair with a wild falcon.

Lenting, who is the driving force behind the project, is pleased with the success rate.

“It’s pretty cool that we got three pairs out of it.”

It is unknown if the other two pairs have had any successful breeding seasons.

The best way to know if a pair was successful is through sighting three falcons flying together.

This usually indicates a mother and father showing the chicks how to fly and hunt.

It is the first 12 months of a falcon’s life which is most dangerous.

If they make it through the first four to eight months, and then winter, they have a good chance of survival.

Stoats and feral cats are major predators.

The three most recently released males are not yet old enough to breed.

The falcons released can be identified by coloured bands on their legs.

Released falcons also have a metal band also which identifies where they were released.

The easiest way to identify a falcon from other birds of prey is their size.

Falcons are smaller, about the size of a magpie, and often fly very flat-winged and fast, whereas harrier hawks have a wingspan of up to a metre and tend to cruise and circle while flying.

Lenting is continuously looking for sightings and any information on the released falcons and breading pairs.

Sightings can be sent to [email protected]


  1. I have just watched a native harrier hawk hunting in the vicinity of our property on Fabians road Greytown. Very exciting, watched the bird for about three or four minutes before it veered off towards Martinborough. I think the Ruamahunga river was its general direction of travel.

  2. I wonder if you could let me know when the release of the karearea took place in Featherston?
    We have noticed some changes in the behaviour of some of the birds on our property and there could be a link.

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