Codfish Island or Whenua Hou is a small island (14 km²) located to the west of Stewart Island/Rakiura in southern New Zealand. It is a predator-free bird sanctuary and the focus of kakapo recovery efforts, with the majority of the breeding population currently located on this island. It is also home to southern short-tailed bats, kaka, fernbirds, red and yellow-crowned parakeets, and a recently introduced population of yellowheads (mohua). Yellow-eyed and Fiordland penguins breed along the coastline.
The English name refers to the endemic blue cod or rawaru / pakirikiri, which is fished commercially in surrounding waters by trapping in baited pots. Whenua Hou means “new land” in Maori.
The resurvey of Codfish was completed by Sandy King (Projects Officer Southern Islands) with assistance from DOC staff Dave Houston (Auckland) and Dean Nelson (Twizel), both very experienced yellow-eyed penguin people in their previous roles with DOC.
The 2009 survey found 46 breeding pairs (vs 2001 61 pairs)
If you add on a 15% margin of error for ‘missed nests’ then that is still only 53 breedng pairs, or down 15% from the 2001 survey.
We still need to find out WHY.
Comment from Dave “Codfish, with the removal of pest species and the addition of a few new birds, is even better than I remember from my first amazing trip there 28 years ago, although the hills have apparently got steeper. Thanks to Sandy King and the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust for the opportunity to take part in this fantastic trip and to Dean for bringing the scotch.”
(Thanks Dave for the awesome photos!)
The Trust-sponsored yellow-eyed penguin census of Whenua Hou commenced mid-November 2001.
It was important the Trust conduct this survey of this predator-free island. When results are compared to those of the neighbouring Stewart Island, it may assist us in finding out whether feral cat predation is a significant factor in the low numbers of yellow-eyed penguins on Stewart Island.
The Trust’s Projects Officer, David Blair and other experienced volunteers carried out a nest search to find 61 productive nests in three main breeding areas. Following the nest search a series of beach counts were completed. The results for Whenua Hou were very positive this year as the numbers of juveniles and non-breeding adult penguins give promise of a secure future for this breeding location.