Fri, Apr 14, 2023 11:35 AM

Paradise duck trend count




Each year in late January, Fish & Game staff can be found out monitoring paradise duck numbers across West Coast, Tasman, Marlborough, and Buller regions.

The counts are carried out using fixed wing airplanes and ground-based visits using drones and binoculars.

The benefit of fixed wing plane is that it is possible to cover a huge area in a day, flying over known moult sites which are ‘minutes apart’ by air, and keeping an eye out for new additional sites that come into play with agricultural development.  

The not so great part of flying is the queasiness that comes with hours in a light aircraft, made worse when circling a moult site multiple times in turbulent air.

Using a drone to get a similar birds eye perspective is a great alternative, they provide for a very accurate count by taking a high resolution photo, which can be subsequently analysed to record the number of birds.

These, and ground based binocular counts, also provide a good opportunity for a face-to-face catch up with farmers, many who kindly provide hunting access during the game bird season.

In the West Coast region, we have again had a strong paradise shelduck moult count, being up 6% on last year, with a total count of 22,802 birds.

This is largely due to high numbers being observed North of Taramakau, accounting for 17,007 moulting birds.

Due to pukeko, paradise shelduck and swan populations on the West Coast being in very health states, they can sustain additional harvest outside the regular game bird season.

With Fish & Game’s first priority of protecting the resource being met, the next priority falls to maximising opportunities for licence holders, and that is how we have come to have a summer season.

To reduce crop predation issues by dispersing large post moult paradise shelduck mobs, the West Coast region is holding a summer season from the last weekend of February until the third weekend of March.

To provide certainty that late moulting paradise shelducks are protected and the hunting pressure is directed to the source of crop predation issues, hunting during the summer season is restricted to locations 200 metres or more from open water.

Elsewhere, a quick snapshot of the Nelson Marlborough region see’s bird numbers in Buller and Golden Bay sub-regions towards the higher end of historical counts.  

The Blenheim/Awatere area revealed a number on par with previous years, and the Nelson/Tasman sub-region showing a welcome decrease in birds from the reasonably high numbers previously.

As many farmers know, ‘parries’ can become problematic before and after the moult, especially when they are concentrated on valuable crop.  

While West Coast Fish & Game region have a summer hunting season, Nelson and Marlborough farmers can contact Fish & Game for assistance, where we can provide either a gas gun or a hunting permit to help disperse or control birds.

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