Gordonton’s Don Riddell had a surprise just before Christmas while out on Pakatoa Island in the Hauraki Gulf. He and cousin David Thompson were sitting above the beach one morning near the south-western corner of the island when David noticed something in the water, about 300 metres from the shore.
“At first we thought it might have been a penguin, but as it came closer we realised it was a weka!” says Don.
“It would’ve taken about a quarter of an hour for it to get to shore, there was a breeze blowing from the south-west, and a bit of a chop.”
After hauling itself up on the rocks, the bedraggled bird stood shivering for 15 minutes before slowly making its way up the shore and disappearing into the scrub.
Weka were introduced to Pakatoa in 1996 and are now common on the island, Don says. They also occur on Rotoroa Island about a kilometre to the south, and that’s almost certainly where this bird came from.
While there seems to be no record of how they got to Rotoroa, Don and Dave’s sighting suggests they probably swam there, in the reverse direction.
It’s long been known that weka can swim, but most of the records to date have been of subspecies that occur in the South Island, and on more sheltered bodies of water such as the Marlborough Sounds, Doubtful Sound, or the southern lakes. So this is a nice record of a very special species.
Art by artguy, Daniel Mills.