November 2018 – Rats and rare birds

Controlling rats is the key to creating a healthy forest. Rats eat almost everything. They eat the fruits and the seeds that fall on the forest floor so there are few seedlings to replenish the forest or for the native insects in the leaf litter to eat. Rats eat the native invertebrates – like beetles, weta, grubs and worms – which are also food for birds like robins. Rats eat birds’ eggs and chicks in the nest. This is devastating for kereru which only lay one egg in a nest.

Whitehead – photo taken by David Brooks

So it is no coincidence that, since we have been controlling rats in Aongatete forest, the birds have multiplied. Now there are lots of robins, the previously unrecorded riflemen are making nests and a new bird has been seen! It is the whitehead, a bird that is nicknamed the bush canary because of its song. It is cousin to the endangered yellow head of the South Island. A few whiteheads must have been hanging on in the Kaimais and now some birds are making Aongatete their home.

Rats are everywhere. You will have some in your backyard. You can be part of Predator-free New Zealand and get rid of your rats. Use bait stations, manual traps or the new self-setting rat traps. Then you will only have to dispose of the bodies! The wildlife in your garden will reward you.

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