More adult hunters to harvest paradise shelducks
A nine-day hunting season to harvest some of Otago’s healthy population of paradise shelduck/pūtangitangi opens on Saturday, March 4.
This year restrictions have eased to encourage more adult hunters to take part in the “summer” season for paradise shelducks.
Pictured: Moulting paradise shelduck on a Central Otago irrigation dam in late January. PHOTO: BRUCE QUIREY, OTAGO FISH & GAME
Long-term monitoring by Otago Fish & Game shows the region’s paradise shelduck population trend has been largely stable..
This summer 20,800 paradise shelduck were counted at 96 wetlands, ponds and lakes around the Otago Fish & Game Region, Fish & Game ecologist Jayde Couper said.
“Long-term data going back 33 years shows the paradise shelduck population is stable but trending downwards over the past five years,” Mr Couper said.
“Trend counts fluctuate from year to year, and they’re lower this summer compared with last year‘s record high of 23,660 paradise shelducks.”
Mr Couper said the endemic birds dispersed across the region for most of the year, but gathered in large mobs on water bodies to moult in late January and early February.
The species tended to moult at similar sites most years, however, their habits were changing as they followed new sources of water and food.
“Over the years the number of sites we monitor has grown,” Mr Couper said.
“We’re having to adapt our monitoring methods in response to changing farm practices, such as the increasing number of irrigation dams and dairy conversions.
“Using some mathematical dark arts – statistical analysis, long-term trends, and route regression ─ it is still possible to confidently identify long-term population trends.”
Fish & Game has been counting paradise shelduck at moult sites each summer since 1990.
The birds are photographed and counted by staff mostly in fixed-wing aircraft circling at low altitude, and a few sites are counted from the ground.
“Our monitoring shows ‘parries’ remain a sustainable native resource, and ─ in the hands of a good cook ─ a tasty addition to the dinner table.”
Previously, the “summer” season was restricted to junior hunters mostly accompanied by adults, however, the record high count last summer triggered a regulation change.
Hunters can use their 2022-23 game bird licence or buy a daily licence online from the Fish & Game website.
Shooting is only permitted 200m from open water.
There is a daily bag limit of five paradise shelducks. All other wildfowl game birds are protected.
The March 4-12 season comes before the opening of the three-month duck hunting season, which opens in May.