Shearwater Recovery Project

Forest & Bird’s Kaikoura branch has been actively involved in creating a third breeding site for our nationally endangered Hutton’s shearwaters.

Fast Facts

• The Hutton's shearwater was first described in 1912, however it wasn’t until 1965 that their breeding grounds were discovered by an amateur ornithologist – Geoff Harrow.
• The Hutton’s shearwater is the only sea-bird species that breeds in a sub-alpine environment.

• Often Hutton’s shearwaters return to Kaikoura only to find their burrows covered in snow. They must wait several weeks for the snow to melt to reveal their burrows.

• Each day the birds travel to the sea to feed, rocketing down at a speed of around 154km/hour and reaching the ocean in as little as 7 minutes .

• The adult population lies at around 460,000 and is classified as ‘nationally endangered’ because of steep population decline in recent years.

There were once eight breeding colonies in the Kaikoura region but only two remain on the mountain-sides of the Kaikoura ranges. These inaccessible sites are free from pigs – one of their key predators.

A third breeding site has been established on the Kaikoura Peninsula as a community initiative involving the Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust, DOC, Tukete Charitable Trust, Kaikoura District Council, Te Runanga O Kaikoura and Forest & Bird as a safeguard to prevent further population decline.

Between 2005 and 2013 there have been 496 titi (young shearwaters) transferred by helicopter to the Te Rae o Atiu site (Kaikoura Peninsula).

When the chicks fledge they fly to the fish-rich waters of the Australian coast for 3-4 years, and have been returning to this site to breed. 

During the transfer period, chicks needed daily attention and were weighed, measured and fed to ensure they were in good condition. 

An army of volunteers - who have assisted the project over the years - have made this project truly successful.

Te Rae O Atiu is 15 minutes from Kaikoura town centre making it incredibly accessible for people wanting to get involved.

The project gives people the chance to be involved and take part in this ground breaking project.

To sum up, one volunteer commented “to have such an amazing project on our backdoor is truly an inspiration”.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved with the Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust, please contact Acting Secretary Teri Sonal on