Food – the focus of a takahē’s day
A takahē’s daily routine is all about getting enough food. Takahē can spend up to 19 hours a day feeding.
Why do takahē spend so much time eating?
Find out about their limited diet and unusual feeding habits…
What takahē eat
Wild takahē in the Murchison Mountains of Fiordland find their food and shelter in alpine grasses such as broad-leaved snow tussock, mid-ribbed snow tussock and curled snow tussock. They will also dine on the leaf base of a single Celmisia species (Celmisia petriei).
Tussock seeds are also a favourite food when they are available. These seeds provide better nutrition than the leaf bases and breeding success is much higher in ‘tussock mast’ years, when lots of seed is produced.
In winter, if snow cover is heavy, birds descend into the forest for shelter and feed mainly on underground starchy rhizomes of the summer green fern (Hypolepis millefolium).
Takahē are generally herbivores (plant eaters), but will sometimes take the opportunity to get more protein by eating insects and lizards.
How takahē eat
Neat little bundles of snipped off tussock tillers are a tell tale sign of a takahē.
The takahē’s powerful beak is perfect for pulling out a tussock tiller. It holds the tiller with one foot and uses its beak to carefully strip off the outer layer exposing the juicy new growth. This is snipped off and eaten and the rest of the tiller discarded.
Tussock or other grass seeds are eaten by sliding the beak up the seed head to strip off the seeds and eat them.
On islands takahē will happily feed on introduced grasses, but they pluck these rather than pulling and snipping.
Training a takahē to eat
Prior to putting any birds into the Murchison Mountains they
are held at Burwood so they learn from other takahē how to eat tussocks and find
the summer green fern.
At Burwood Bush and at Display Sites the takahē are fed special takahē pellets developed by Massey University. These cereal based pellets ensure that takahē held in captivity get all the nutrients they need.
At Burwood takahē are held in 1 ha pens, far smaller than the territories
they would inhabit in the Murchison Mountains. Feeding pellets here is also an attempt to prevent all the vegetation in the pen being destroyed by the takahē.
Takahē love the pellets, so once they are trained to feed at the hoppers used to distribute the pellets, supplementary
feeding can be used as a management
tool at breeding sites;
- Rangers use trail cameras to monitor takahē visiting food hoppers.
- Hoppers can be used to lure takahē into capture pens.