The Life Cycle of a Takahē

Takahē are long–lived birds. In captivity and at secure sites they can live for up to 20 years or more. In the wilds of Fiordland their maximum lifespan is about 15 years.

Alpine, the oldest known takahē, was hatched from an egg collected in the Murchison Mountains.  She spent her all of her 27 years at the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary (then known as the Te Anau Wildlife Centre).

Eggs

Takahē lay 2 (sometimes up to 3) speckled eggs in a nest on the ground usually under the canopy of a tussock, grass or flax.

Chicks

Chicks hatch out of their egg as balls of black downy feathers with oversized feet and a white tipped beak.  They only spend a couple of days on the nest before venturing forth  returning to the nest for only the first week after hatching.  The second chick of a clutch usually arrives a couple of days after the first and will leave the nest even more quickly, often within two days of hatching.

Chicks stay close to their parents and if threatened will usually hide whilst the parents move away drawing the threat with them.

 

3 month old takahē.

3 month old takahē showing typical juvenile colouring. Photo: Sabine Bernert

Chicks slowly develop adult plumage throughout the first year of life.  Over the first three months their black down covering is replaced by grey-blue feathers with soft teal feathers gradually developing on their backs.  Full adult plumage has developed by six to seven months.  Finally their beaks and feet develop the distinctive red colouring so that by one year old they look like adult takahē.

 

Teenage helpers?

Young takahē  stay with their parents for at least the first year of their life. Sometimes they  stay and help with chick-rearing in the following breeding season, not ‘leaving home’ until they are 18 months old.

 

Takahē retirement

Takahē start breeding at 2-3 years old and will continue through until they are about 14 – 15 years old.

Display sites provide great retirement homes for 14-15 year old takahē from secure sites. Once they have reached an age where they are unlikely to successfully breed, takahē are moved to display or retirement sites to free up territories for more productive birds.

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