High country treat, nesting wrybill

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Ashburton Forest & Bird members visited the Rakaia River above the gorge at the weekend and were privileged to see a nesting wrybill.

The bird was stoically protecting her eggs from biting wind and rain and was very difficult to see.

Wrybill are the only birds in the world whose beak bends to the right, an adaptation that allows them to find invertebrates that live under river stones.

Both male and female incubate the eggs for approximately three weeks. The chicks are tiny balls of fluff and if feeling threatened will sit still, making them almost impossible to see.

The adults are also very difficult to see as their plumage is the colour of the surrounding stones.

The “freeze” reaction is an adaptation to the threat of flying predators like southern black backed gulls which hunt by sight.

Introduced predators such as cats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and hedgehogs, which all hunt by scent, are some of the dangers to the wrybill.

Predator traps have been placed along the Rakaia and Rangitata Rivers in an effort to ensure the survival of the hardy little wrybills.

Photo: The tiny wrybill, about the size of a sparrow, with wings spread to protect the two eggs laid among the stones. The nest was about 50cm from a vehicle track, nests are almost impossible to see and vehicles in riverbeds during spring can easily crush them. (Photo supplied)