Kaikoura's Hutton Shearwater

The Hutton’s shearwater/Kaikōura tītī (Puffinus huttoni) is an endangered seabird endemic to Kaikoura. The only place in the world that this species breeds is high in the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges at elevations between 1200 to 1800 m. When the Hutton’s shearwater colonies were rediscovered in 1964, there were eight colonies but only two survive today - on conservation land in the headwaters of the Kowhai River and on private land in Shearwater Stream. Kaikōura is therefore literally their last place on earth.


The Hutton’s shearwater is a small black and white shearwater, 36-38 cm in length with a wingspan of about 75 cm. The upper parts are uniform brownish black. The dark brown of the cap extends below the eye merging into the white of the chin and throat. The dark hindneck extends down behind the cap to form a broad collar almost encircling the neck and upper breast. The rest of the underbody extending from the lower breast to the undertail coverts is white except for a small dark patch on the thigh and the sides of the undertail coverts. The underwing is off-white with broad brownish borders with extensive dusky grey armpits. Bill is long, slender, and dark grey. Iris brown. Leg is light to dark pink and mauve on the inside and pink and dark grey outside; feet pink with black webs.


Hutton’s shearwaters are in decline and unless their threats are addressed, this extraordinary species could one day be lost forever. In 2005 a third colony (Te Rae o Atiu) was established on the Kaikōura Peninsula, to ensure long-term survival. This was a joint project by Te Runanga o Kaikōura, Whale Watch and the Department of Conservation, with support from Forest & Bird and the local community. Hutton’s shearwater chicks were translocated from the Kowhai River colony (one of only two remaining wild colonies) in the Seaward Kaikōura Range to the artificial Kaikōura Peninsula/Te Rae O Atiu colony in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust was formed in October 2008. A predator-proof fence was then constructed in 2010, with further translocations taking place in 2012 and 2013. Chicks adapted well to their artificial burrows within the predator-proof colony. They were fed sardine smoothies for a 2-3-week period by an army of volunteers, regularly weighed and fitted with metal bands and microchips. During this time the chicks ‘imprinted’ on the site, ensuring they will one day return to the colony to breed. Translocated birds raised at the colony have already begun returning and producing offspring! The next translocation will likely take place in 2018.

Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust

The Trust was formed to encourage and promote the conservation, research, public education and sustainable management of the Hutton’s shearwater. The Trust promotes awareness of the plight of endangered Hutton’s shearwater both locally and internationally and generates support for research and conservation projects. The Trust is partnered with New Zealand’s leading conservation authority, the Department of Conservation. The Trust is contributing to protecting and restoring a New Zealand species and its ecosystem.

The Trust aims to:

1) Manage a full suite of introduced pests at the two remaining wild colonies,

2) Monitor wild populations,

3) Encourage vital conservation research projects),

4) Successfully manage the translocated Kaikoura Peninsula colony,

5) Reintroduce Hutton’s shearwater to former colonies,

6) Involve local communities,

7) Educate and increase awareness.

Help to conserve the Hutton’s shearwater by becoming a Friend, sponsoring a chick, purchasing merchandise or making an online donation! 

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Long sleeved thermal top, Fleece, shorts or light pants e.g. quick drys, NO JEANS!
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