Nesting boxes for petrels

Nine odd-looking wooden boxes each fixed with a 90-centimetre long pipe are in Gary McCracken’s garage.

North Taranaki Forest & Bird member Gary McCracken volunteered his building skills to construct artificial nesting boxes.

North Taranaki Forest & Bird member Gary McCracken volunteered his building skills to construct artificial nesting boxes.

They may look incongruous now but by January they will be laid underground to provide safe nests for grey-faced petrels at Rapanui Reserve, north of Tongapörutu, 68 kilometres north-east of New Plymouth.

North Taranaki branch members have been volunteering at the reserve for more than 10 years and since 2006 have helped the Grey Faced Petrel Trust maintain the coastal
nesting site.

Branch members the late Margaret and Robert Molloy were also founding members of the trust and encouraged the branch to join planting and weeding working bees at the reserve.

Gary says the branch decided to honour the memories of Margaret and Robert, who “worked tirelessly on the project from the start”, by funding materials for nine new nesting boxes.

It took just one day for the registered builder to construct the 40 cubic centimetre nesting boxes.

The next stage will have to wait until next season. Gary says the male petrels began preparing nests in June.

“Incubation of the egg takes eight weeks. Most of the chicks have left the nests by the end of December, so we will start [distributing boxes] after that.”

The Rapanui Reserve is protected by a predator-proof fence and already contains nine artificial nesting boxes.

Branch member Barry Hartley says 43 active burrows were recorded at the reserve last year, which was a “significant increase on previous years” as a result of predator control.

Barry hopes the nesting boxes will discourage petrels from nesting outside the fenced reserve, and also from burrowing underneath the fence, which lets in predators.

It’s hoped that planting threatened coastal plants at the reserve will enable the future introduction of other rare native animals.