Australasian crested grebe
Image: Shellie Evans ©

Introduction

The Australasian crested grebe is a diving water bird. Lake Pearson/Moana Rua in Canterbury has been designated a wildlife refuge to help protect the grebe.

Highlights

New Zealand status: Native
Conservation status: Threatened (Nationally Vulnerable)
Population: 600 in New Zealand in 2012
Found in:
Alpine and sub-alpine lakes in the South Island of New Zealand, and Australia
Threats: Predation, habitat loss, human disturbance

Sound recordings:

Australasian crested grebe song (MP3, 862K)
00:54 – Pair display call on Lake Alexandrina with adult male giving a growling call

Species information: Australasian crested grebe on NZ Birds Online

Australasian crested grebe/kāmana conservation

Did you know?

Chicks are ferried around on their parent's back.

Widespread but declining

The Australasian crested grebe or kāmana are found on every continent in the world. Māori call the birds kāmana, and regard them as taonga/treasure.

They are found all over the South Island of New Zealand, and they are fully protected. They live on lakes of various sizes but require vegetation along the lake margins for nesting and shelter from rough weather. They attach their floating nests to underwater vegetation.

At least 100 South Island lakes once had grebes but there have been ongoing declines in Marlborough, the West Coast and in Fiordland. Only Canterbury and Otago remain as strongholds.

Kāmana have declined mainly due to introduced predators; and loss habitat loss through drainage of wetlands and the establishment of hydro schemes.

Animals like stoats, cats and raptors can prey on eggs and fledglings. Introduced fish and birds compete for food and breeding space.

Nests can be stranded or flooded by artificial fluctuations in lake levels. Motorised water craft can swamp nests and destroy eggs. and the noise can scare adult birds leaving eggs or chicks exposed to the cold or predators.

Lake Pearson wildlife refuge

Lake Pearson/Moana Rua in Canterbury has been designated a wildlife refuge to help protect the grebe. It is one of the few remaining breeding sites for kāmana, and their numbers appear to have remained stable here for several decades.

Wildlife refuge status is one of New Zealand’s highest forms of legal protection for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitats. This allows the Minister of Conservation to prohibit or restrict activities on the lake and its margins.

For instance, there are restrictions on motorised boats on the lake and together with predator control measures, this will hopefully allow grebes to increase their numbers in years to come.

You can help

When visiting grebe habitat, move quietly and carefully around lake edges.

Emergency hotline

Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately if you see anyone catching, harming or killing native wildlife. 

Help protect our native birds

When visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
  • Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. 
  • Leave nesting birds alone.
  • Follow the water care code.
  • Avoid leaving old fishing lines on beaches or in the sea.
Other ways to help
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
  • Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Set traps for stoats or rats on your property. Get more information from your local DOC office.
  • Put a bell on your cat's collar, feed it well, and keep it indoors at dusk/dawn and at night.
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