Back in the early 1980s the kakī population totalled just 23 birds. In 1981 the Department of Conservation initiated a captive-breeding programme in the MacKenzie country town of Twizel which has seen the wild population of adult birds soar to 106 in 2017. This fantastic result includes an increase from four productive kakī pairs in 1999 to 28 pairs in 2016.

The kakī/black stilt’s preferred habitat is that of high-country braided river and wetland systems, with the three main strongholds being the Tasman valley near Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Godley and Cass valleys in the Tekapo area.

Kakī in the free-flight aviary Juvenile kakī. This image clearly shows the mottled plumage of a young bird

There are two main factors that greatly affect the numbers of kakī. By far the most influential is heavy predation by animals such as stoats and wild cats. Habitat destruction and drainage of important wetlands also contributes to the plight of the kakī.

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