With their distinctive long pink legs and elegant black plumage, the kakī / black stilt looks graceful and delicate. But these birds are tough.
Kakī used to be common throughout New Zealand, but are now only found in the Mackenzie and Waitaki basins. They live in an extreme environment, in the summer temperatures can reach 40°C, while in winter their feathers can freeze in -20 temperatures.
While other riverbed birds migrate, kakī stay in the braided rivers and surrounding farmland all year round, where they are vulnerable to introduced predators like stoats and feral cats.
In 1981, the wild population was reduced to only 23 birds. Numbers have now increased to 170 adults living in the wild, thanks to the work of DOC’s Kakī Recovery Programme and others like the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust.
Re:Wild has funded an aviary and brooder to help boost the kakī population and landowners of Te Manahuna Aoraki assist by helping locate nests and allowing trapping networks on their land.
The best places to view kakī are along the Takapō / Tekapo lakeshore, along the east side of Lake Pukaki, or the Tasman Delta near the Glentanner Park Centre and Lake Poaka.