Karearea: The Boy Racer of our Skies
Guest blogger: Co-campaign manager for the karearea, Ruud ‘bugman’ Kleinpaste
The New Zealand Falcon or Karearea has to be the “boy racer” of our skies.
There’s something quite reckless about the raptor that gets itself into trouble on the odd occasion. Falcon can fly like the wind and float at great heights, while scanning the air space and ground below; their eyesight is incredible – nothing escapes their attention.
While on a hunting mission, these birds will pursue prey that’s larger or heavier than themselves and the most spectacular dare-devil flights are the high speed pursuits of small birds.
We are talking truly high speeds – one hundred kilometres per hour is just warming up. The dives are breath-taking, the talons sharp and accurate.
They are known to chase young rabbits into their burrows and follow them! They’ll smash into ducks or pheasants as if they know no fear.
Screaming through a fence at the end of a paddock or speeding through a dense stand of trees can result in a few accidental injuries and those birds often end up at Wingspan in Rotorua, where they are nursed back to health and taught to fly and hunt again, via age-old falconry techniques.
When you see those Wingspan birds fly by so close, you really get a good impression of what it is like to be a pilot in a jet fighter.
Our falcons are rare: some 4000 pairs remain in the wild (that is a lot fewer than North Island brown kiwi) so the population is very vulnerable indeed. But it is encouraging to see how they can adapt to living, breeding and hunting in exotic habitats, such as pine forests.
They even adopt vineyards as suitable hunting grounds, where grape-eating birds are chased away in an innovative approach to “biological control” of grape pests.
The sad thing is that there are still some terribly misguided individuals that consider raptors in general (and falcons in particular) to be vermin. Falcons are still shot at by the odd pigeon fancier or farmer; And I mean odd in the most literal sense of the word!
Falco novaeseelandiae is our ace predator on the wing; it deserves our utmost respect and our vote….