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Romance is in the air...

We are optimistic that Joe, the longest surviving released weka, has paired up with "Amy", a recently released female, bred in John and Helen Wilson's aviary at Waikino.

Amy is a survivor — she escaped with her mother and sibling when just a chick and, after several days of freedom, returned to the aviary.

Amy was released without a radio but we have seen her twice since release and often hear one bird call and the other respond. Such tracing of the birds can be quite exhausting and time-consuming — whenever there is a call, we rush outside to determine direction and try to identify calls.

Joe had a previous mate, Molly. They nested near by but. unfortunately, Molly was killed. Our efforts since to pair him up have been unsuccessful and so we are delighted that this time it seems to be working.

To the untrained eye, male and female weka look alike, but once familiar with them, a subtle difference can be seen. Sexing is usually done by beak and leg measurement but large female measurements and small male measurements can give an indeterminate result.

Then we weigh the birds. Even then we can be confused. Once we had two birds together displaying all the courtship behaviour of a bonded pair. The male bird feeds the female, they preen each other and call together.

One night one bird beat the other up — really thrashed it. We later learned that they were the same sex.

Our two breeding pairs started nesting again when their last chicks were seven-eight weeks old. We are having to watch carefully to ensure that the young birds don't disturb the new nests and to gauge the right time to shift them into the release aviary.