To enable the Kākāpō Recovery team to keep tabs on the kākāpō population, each bird wears a smart transmitter that sends out a radio signal to report their position, whether they are alive or dead, whether the females are nesting and, if so, for how long. The males’ transmitters provide information about which females they have mated with and when.
The kākāpō team can spend long hours patiently searching and scrambling through forest and undergrowth, tracking these elusive birds to collect this data. It means they soon develop an intimate knowledge of the kākāpō home islands. New technology called Sky Ranger has been developed by Wildtech NZ Ltd which allows us to occasionally collect all the information from the kākāpō transmitters during a flyover of the island, by a fixed-wing plane.
Another tracking device that we rely heavily on – the Snark – is an automated radio telemetry logging system and, when placed at strategic locations, makes the job much easier.
During breeding seasons if a female establishes a nest, a whole new level of monitoring begins. A Nest Kit is set up nearby and this is kept running every day for up to four months. Each evening, a nest-minder is rostered to stay in a tent near the nest, to make sure the eggs and chicks are safe while the mother is away foraging for food.