Eastern Falcon Conservation Trust

        About the ‘eastern’ falcon ....

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The ‘eastern’ falcon is one of three morphs of the NZ falcon (falco noveozealandia), so called as this ‘falcon of the east’ is found predominately found east of the Southern Alps in the South Island. The ‘bush’ falcon is found in the North Island and West Coast of the South Island, with the ‘southern’ falcon found in Fiordland and Stewart Island as well as the Auckland Islands. The eastern falcon is both the most widespread and numerous. Physically it is the largest of the subtypes, with South Island falcons generally larger than North Island falcons. Latest research (Olley, 2014) indicates that genetically there is no basis for differentiation of the informally recognized NZ falcon morphs.

Falcons are incredibly adaptable as indicated by their world-wide distribution, from the arctic to tropical islands, including many of the largest North American cities. Our NZ falcon or karearea are no exception and have adapted to the constantly changing geological landscape, the arrival of exotic species, and, the arrival of man along with many introduced predators. Genetically speaking, the NZ falcon has no closely related ‘sister’ species in either Australia or South America.

Falcons are listed as near threatened and their populations are in decline through out New Zealand. The number one threat to the majority of eastern falcons are toxins. Habitat loss is less of an issue given their adaptability. Loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat has been ongoing since the arrival of falcons in New Zealand. The need to adapt to the changing physical environment is evidenced by the three morphological subtypes of NZ falcon.

Rather than habitat loss, it is actually disturbance within their chosen territories that has a greater negative impact on the NZ falcon, particularly within nesting territories. People, livestock, and machinery (e.g., in forestry habitats) are arguably more of an issue than even predators. Shootings (many possibly as a result of misidentifying Harriers) and electrocution are also significant causes of unnecessary mortality. Collision deaths with windows and to a lesser extent vehicles also occur. Non intentional trapping of falcons in leg hold and cat traps is also an issue.

In dryland ecosystems of the South Island, falcon populations have rebounded significantly since the controversial release of RHD (rabbit haemorrhagic disease), formerly known as ‘Calicivirus’ or RCD (rabbit calicivirus disease) in the mid 90’s. This saw the cessation of long standing and intense rabbit control programmes using a variety of toxins. Eastern falcons prey upon rabbits and rabbit carrion therefore making them susceptible to secondary poisoning. Current pest control practices using Pindone and 1080 remain an ongoing issue for our eastern falcons.


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