Most precious inhabitant on two legs

The Mackenzie Basin is the only place in the world where you can see the most endangered wading bird on the planet – the precious and precarious black stilt (kaki).

Here at Alpine Springs we’re very proud of the recovery efforts being made by the Department of Conservation (DOC) at Twizel.

The black stilt population is less than 150. Unlike other wading birds, they don’t migrate during winter, mostly living their entire lives within the Mackenzie. Adults grow to about 40 cm tall and weigh about 220 grams. They have long red legs, completely black plumage, and a long thin black bill. Juveniles have a white breast and markings. They start breading aged 2-3 years, and nest on dry river banks.

Black Stilt

Black Stilt

Since 1981 DOC has run a captive breeding centre near Lake Ruataniwha where eggs are artificially incubated and the young chicks are reared safely away from predators before they are released into their preferred braided stream habitats as young juveniles in summer and as sub-adults in September.

Much restoration of their preferred habitats has been undertaken and we hope to see more of them wading on the Tekapo River delta and around Patterson’s Ponds nearby.

There is a visitor hide adjacent to the DOC breeding centre. Regular hour long guided tours are run during spring and autumn so you can see how the recovery programme is done and also watch these captivating and precious birds.

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