That year, after a wet and stormy night, a nest check revealed that Green’s chick was missing and her egg was cold. After that discouraging find, something good happened—Green renested. Previously, nobody knew that Black Robins would lay more eggs after a failed reproductive attempt. That opened up the possibility of increasing the number of chicks raised by removing the first eggs and having another species foster them so the Black Robins would produce another set of young. Early attempts with Chatham Island Warblers were unsuccessful, as these small foster parents could only rear the large chicks for a few days. They could not feed them enough to keep them alive until fledging.
‘Tis always the season for celebrating Black Robins | Pets
The next step was transferring Black Robin eggs to nests of the closely related Chatham Island Tomtit, but these had all been moved to Rangatira Island to prevent them from competing with Black Robins for food and space. The 30-kilometer boat ride to Rangatira Island on famously rough seas meant a longer delay from the time the eggs were taken from Black Robin nests until their placement in foster nests.
Miraculously, the program brought the Black Robin species back from the brink of extinction. It’s still endangered, but is no longer critically endangered. All 250-300 Black Robins in existence are descended from Old Blue and Old Yellow. None of Green’s chicks survived to reproduce, so her genes were lost.
Old Blue lived to be 13 or 14, and she is the only bird whose death was announced in a government’s Parliament. She was celebrated then, and we celebrate her now.
Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, author, and an Adjunct Faculty in NAU’s Department of Biological Sciences.
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