Photo courtesy of Rod Morris
The Westland Petrel/tāiko are the last remnant of a unique ecosystem. They are one of only two petrel species that still breed exclusively on the mainland of New Zealand. Their only breeding colony is located on the West Coast of the South Island, near Punakaiki. Several species of burrowing petrel once bred in similar terrain on the North and South Islands of New Zealand. However, commercial fishing, introduced predators, habitat modifications, and human food-gathering, have decimated seabird populations, completely wiping them out of some mainland sites. The Westland petrel numbers only 6,200 breeding pairs, which makes the species Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List and At Risk on New Zealand’s classification system.
The Westland Petrel needs our help so it doesn’t go the way of other petrel species!
Species: Tāiko / Westland Petrel / Procellaria westlandica
Location: Endemic to the coastal foothills of Punakaiki
Status: At Risk – Naturally Uncommon
Threats: The main threats that the Westland petrel continue to face are incidental bycatch in commercial fishing, illegal releases of feral pigs into the breeding colonies and climate change. Global warming has had a massive impact on the Westland petrel by altering prey availability and increasing the frequency of severe weather events, which ultimately cause the loss of breeding burrows to landslides. Other threats include artificial lighting near flight paths grounding birds, roaming dogs and feral goats collapsing burrows.
Our work: planting, weeding, community education.
Taking action to conserve Tāiko
The Punakaiki Coastal Restoration Project is a collaborative effort involving business, government and community organisations pooling their resources to deliver significant environmental and community benefits. The project partners are the Department of Conservation, Conservation Volunteers New Zealand, Lincoln University and Rio Tinto Ltd.
The site borders the Westland Petrel Specially Protected Area, located in the foothills of the Paparoa Ranges. This is the only breeding colony for the Westland Petrel (tāiko), a species of petrel whose presence was first discovered by students from the local Barrytown school in the late 1940s. Planting at this site is designed to enhance the protection of the Westland Petrel’s breeding habitat.
Through the combined efforts of everyone involved, the project is helping to:
- Restore the adjacent, previously farmed land to forested landscape.
- Create a buffer zone to enhance the protection of the Westland Petrel Specially Protected Area.
- Develop an education and knowledge base to support tāiko protection.
- Protect other native species in the area by trapping introduced mammalian predators.
Join Conservation Volunteers on an adventure along the beautiful West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. This project focuses on habitat restoration of coastal land adjacent to Paparoa National Park. Volunteers will help out with a variety of tasks in a stunning location – including tree planting, seed collection and removal of weeds. Punakaiki is home to the world-famous Pancake Rocks, and provides a wonderful opportunity to explore this unique coastal landscape.
Join us and help support tāiko to have a Wild Future.
Description and distribution
The tāiko is endemic to New Zealand, but roams far and wide as a seabird. During the breeding season, which occurs from May-December, tāiko forage on the northern west coast of NZ as far as Australia to the west, in addition to the Cook Strait and the Chatham Rise, crashing through the trees on their nightly return to their burrows. In late summer, the birds migrate to the south-west coast of South America. In late autumn, they return to breed in the coastal foothills of the Paparoa range near Punakaiki, an 8 km stretch of coastal forest. Annually, there are approximately 6,200 breeding pairs with adults living up to 40 years of age, and breeding from 6 or 7 years.
The Westland petrel are the largest species of burrowing petrel breeding in NZ (50cm). The bird has a chunky look to it, being large-bodied and with a stout bill, which is pale yellow with a dark tip. The plumage is entirely dark brownish-black with black legs and feet. Unusually, Westland petrels produce a quacking, humming and braying sound on the breeding colony, with a rather nasal sound. A testament to their feisty nature, Westland petrel are one of the few seabird species in NZ whose breeding success is not significantly impacted by introduced mammal predators. The breeding population is currently slowly increasing at an average of 1.02% per annum. Monitoring and research is ongoing to increase understanding of the impacts of commercial fishing and climate change and to ensure the population continues to trend positively.
Help save the Tāiko
You can be a part of this important recovery effort by volunteering to help the tāiko at our project site in Punakaki, or by donating to our Wild Futures program to ensure that these birds have a Wild Future.
We make it easy for people to make a difference and help secure tāiko in the wild.
Would you like to give the tāiko a Wild Future? You can do so by donating through our secure online system.
By volunteering on our field project, you can make a practical contribution and help give the tāiko a Wild Future.
View the Westland petrel/ tāiko on the Department of Conservation website: