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HIHI FEEDERS - "Capture, Identify, Advocate: Bringing Species back from the Brink"

Of all species that share our planet, humans are the only ones capable of causing the extinction of others. Equally we are the only ones capable of pulling endangered species back from the brink of extinction. NZ has more than its share of endangered bird species, none more so than the Hihi, a bird with no close relatives anywhere in the world. All efforts to save species involve intervention, sometimes in the form of supplementary feeding. Outside of the last wild population of Hihi on Little Barrier/Hauturu all translocated/satellite populations require supplementary feeding with sugar water at special feeder stations.  Our vision and intention is to design a feeder station for endangered species (initially Hihi) that is species specific and which ensures strict hygiene, easy maintenance, is of durable materials and provides good viewing for public advocacy with emphasis on school groups.                   

The key attributes of these new feeders are (a) Durability plus ease of transportation and installation in the forest; (b) Easily maintained hygiene; (c) Improved visibility of birds feeding - advocacy; (d) Electronic/automated reading of transponders enabling individual recording via PIT of behaviour and breeding patterns.To quote Lord Kelvin: "If you cannot measure it you cannot improve it." While current trialling is refining these features, it is anticipated that this new model will provide a quantum leap in public advocacy, community/volunteer participation and data collection on the species.

For a more detailed list of the special features please refer to the attachments below 

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

  • Provision of supplementary feeding stations. Existng models are difficult to relocate in the forest     
  • Manual catching, banding and data colllection on all translocated populations is time and labour consuming placing heavy demands on volunteers.   
  • Providing insurance against any sentinal event on Hauturu is vital for the species.This is achieved by the provision of special sugar water feeder stations which double as vewing opportunities for the public.
  • Un-changed materially since the early 1990s current models are deficient in respect of hygiene, movement to new forest sites and optimum viewing/advocacy an essential factor in student/community interest and support which in turn influences sponsors and the public-especially students who need to experience the thrill and excitement of seeing rare and endangered species at close quarters
  • Securing any translocated/satellite population as insurance against any sentinel event in a source population  

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

  • Building on experience gained in the field and by utilising developing technology, this new design and its improved features are detailed in the attached files below but in essence the project is intended to ensure: (a) Durability; (b) Ease of transport and siting in the forest; (c) Maximume hygiene maintenance; (d) Automated transponder reading to allow for individual bird data collection; (e) Enhanced visibility to visitors in order to create best possible advocacy. This has significant value for school groups, students and potential sponsors. We believe that this new feeder will achieve all of these outcomes.Put simply, people need to see and experience rare birds in order to become enthused.
  • Video and pics to follow. Prototypes are out in the forest for further trialling and refining.

What makes your idea new and unique?

  • To date feeders have been used solely for Hihi, and limited to six translocated/satellite populations, so all the research has been with one species. This design has the potential to be modified to allow for the monitoring of other species as well as excluding nuisance birds eg bellbirds which at some sites consume such large quantities of sugar water as to put heavier workloads on volunteers as the need for replenishment is significantly increased. Where bellbirds consume really large quantities of sugar water sponsorship of the sugar is put at risk. Bellbird bullying of hihi limits viewing opportunities and hence advocacy. Other modifications can include using stainless steel mesh where kaka are present, adjusting entry hole size depending on what particular birds are being monitored thus avoiding species conflict. Automated transponder readers enhances data collection from individual birds as the entry perch slows down birds to ensure accurate reading.
  • Refer images 

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

Potential users of this new design feeder are current and future translocated/satellite hihi populations. The transponder reader technology developed for bat roosts is being modified by us for use in all hihi feeders, and later will have potential for use with other bird species. Also while this idea is species specific, other recovery groups will appreciate that a combination of field research and the application of new technology in whatever variety and form can be used to develop systems and practices applicable to solve almost any problem.The possibilities for encouraging such innovation are exciting. as we move into the Predator Free Programme.The prototype can be adapted to meet specific circumstances and we expect this to provide a springboard for further innovation 

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

Additional invstment is needed for costs involved in the final adjustments and refinements to the two existing prototype,including field testing, followed by the production and supply of models to the following translocated population sites - Rotokare, Maungatautari, Bushy Park, Zealandia, Kapiti Island and Tiritiri Matangi - perhaps five per site.To date all research and development has been undertaken by volunteers with one generous private donation. A grant of $25,000 would allow for the field work to expand and would fund the manufacture of sufficient feeders for most of the translocated/satellite populations. Currently field workers on Tiritiri Matangi and Maungatautari volunteer under challenging environments and a grant would be greatly welcomed by them.  

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?

YES

I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2017 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Privacy Policy

YES

List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

 1) Tui high on kowhai

 2) X-specs

 3)Guardians of Zealandia

 4) Baleen Filter

 5) Wall-E 20

These five ideas collectively speak out about first, individual responsibility and second,  emphasize the importance of collaboration. One of the strengths of conservation and environmentalists is that people are so willing to share their ideas with others. The opportunity to make a difference surpercedes any desire for personal credit. This facet, while expressed differently by each submitter tells us much about the sincerity of each one. It is very hard to rank any of these ideas but I have rarely seen such potential for so many innovations, however small, to be gleaned and incorporated into many other innovative proposals. Our environment can rejoice in such passion and enterprise. I know I am excited by such an explosion of talent and the potential for cross-pollination of really great ideas. You are all truly inspirational! 

How could you improve your idea?

Our idea is the culmination of many years of passionate commitment by many volunteers dedicated to bringing back from the brink this beautiful yet critically endangered bird. While we are pretty happy with the advances achieved in design plus the incorporation of technology (the transponder/PIT system), such is the speed of technological progress that I can see some improvements based on some other ideas being a real possibility.While replenishing of sugar water is done manually every three days, enabling easy data collection from our system, one must not not discount new systems.eg restricting only tagged hihi  access to the feeder by way of triggering  entry  to allow the birds in. This can be explored..However at this stage existing prototypes need to be field-trialled at different sites so that functionality over more than one nesting season can be analyzed. While further refinements cannot be ruled out it is worth remembering that even the smallest  and most modest improvement can create a quantum leap to an existing item. Two of history's best examples are the crimp in the hairpin and the safety pin-- two tiny modifications  but with phenomenal impact. We are confident that our proposed changes to a basic bird feeder, modest though they may seem in today's age of sophisticated technology, will achieve a similar advancement in "Bringing Species Back From the Brink".

Videos
edited on Oct 15, 2017 by Allan Anderson

Hannah Smith 10 months ago

What a great project. I can't wait to see these in use.

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Jennifer Mcguire 10 months ago

I can clearly see how passionate you are about this and thank goodness for passion and the good work of volunteers. I really like this idea and what it is building upon from the work you have already done. This would make a positive difference for the Hihi and I wish you the very best of luck.

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Allan Anderson 10 months ago

Thank you for that Jennifer. Yes it is passion that fuels all of our conservation volunteers--that keeps them going in the bush in all weathers and for all hours. We need to give them the tools to anable them to see the fruits of their endeavours

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Jennifer Mcguire 10 months ago

Great work so far. I look forward to seeing of this project progresses.

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John Ewen 10 months ago

Thanks Allan - so timely! I have worked with hihi for many years and have seen first hand how important the feeding stations are for engaging the public and also for successfully restoring hihi populations to sites. This project will allow hihi managers to better track how populations are doing, will ensure these hihi remain healthy (there have been health problems linked to the old wooden versions) and allow New Zealanders and people from around the world better encounters with one of New Zealand's brightest and most interesting endemic species.

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Chris Muller 10 months ago

Hi Allan,
Great idea, Hihi need all the help they can get!
Can your idea be used for feeding stations for other species like kakapo too?
Does the feeding station need to be visited to download the data on which birds have visited? My project (The Drone Ranger) is a drone with a multi-frequency radio receiver onboard, so if the feeding stations could broadcast a radio signal the drone could download information from them as it flies overhead. This could also include info on whether they need refilling too! This could be useful if you had a lot of stations to check, or if they were in the back country where it’s hard to get to.

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Allan Anderson 10 months ago

Currently the transponder has a range of just a few cm which enables accurate reading of a birds legband as it enters the feeder. This is ulikely atthis stage to allow for drone reading but technology has a habit if developing in amazing ways. A challenge for future innovators

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Chris Muller 10 months ago

Hi Allan, you wouldn’t need to read the PIT tags from the air, but if you could attach a radio transmitter to the PIT tag reader then it could transmit the stored data. The PIT tag reader I use has a built-in wireless Bluetooth connection for data download which would probably have enough range for a drone to pick up. Otherwise, using a stronger class 1 Bluetooth or a wifi signal should have plenty of range, and a VHF transmitter definitely would. The Drone Ranger already has a wifi receiver onboard too!

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John Ewen 10 months ago

Very interesting idea Chris. For these new feeders the managers will need an easy way of downloading the data from the PIT tag reader. In this case something like a drone would be fun but managers actually need to visit and keep the food fresh (every few days) so could find alternative ways to efficiently retrieve data - perhaps using the same technology you suggest (e.g. wireless bluetooth connection for data download).

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Jo Thorne 10 months ago

Great new design, I especially like how the feeders will also assist in monitoring populations as this is such an important part of a successful translocation. The improved hygiene of the feeders is also a really positive feature of the design.

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Bronwyn Crow 10 months ago

Fantastic Allan. You have been passionate about the Hihi for so long and the very best person to see this project through. All very exciting. All the very best.

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Lesley Dolling 10 months ago

Great Allan, Hihi certainly need all the help they can get!
Regards, Lesley Dolling

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Simon Collins 10 months ago

An amazing amount of work has been done so far to progress this idea, with very little resource overall - it is clear that this project will significantly advance hihi conservation management by providing important improvements to how hihi feeding and monitoring routines are undertaken - not least of which will be improving efficiency for community conservation groups managing hihi populations on probably very small budgets. Well done for the efforts so far, and we all look forward to this work being completed and available for all current and future hihi sites.

It would be fair to say that this innovation will certainly improve the prospects for hihi recovery!

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Michael Fielding 10 months ago

Love the idea of species-specific feeders, and you've clearly thought about the functional aspects a lot - great! I'm fascinated by how you could make it species-specific though.

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Allan Anderson 10 months ago

Thank you Michael. This is perhaps the most significant and original innovation aspect of this design. In some areas bellbirds are are a real nuisance, gorging themselves on the sugar water. They also bully the more timid hihi cluttering public viewing and impacting on advocacy. With very precise adjustment to entry hole size the faster moving hihi will enter and the more robust bellbirds deterred (and hopefully get the message that mealtime is not for them! Also, since most of the hihi will be banded (wth monitoring of nests ensuring this as most chicks are hatched and banded in nestboxes) any rogue bellbirds or any other unbanded species will not register on the transponder while banded hihi will. Of course a few hihi born in natural nests may not be banded initially but as is the current practice some of them will be manually observed at the feeder, captured and identified when banded.
Perhaps significantly, when used for any banded species, then the transponders, fitted by the entrance holes, will provide species specific data.

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John Ewen 10 months ago

Yes Allan is exactly right here in that this technology will allow species specific monitoring. Given how fast the birds come and go and when they are in large groups this will provide far more precise data on individual IDs for monitoring. The other hoped for advance here is that we could possibly use these tags to act as a key to gain entrance to the feeding stations. Bellbirds without these tags would not have a key to enter. Given they consume the vast majority of food provided at places such as Tiritiri Matangi and Kapiti this would be a major change in the effort required to feed hihi. For example, nearly 9000 litres of sugar provided in the last year on Tiritiri Matangi and most of it consumed by bellbird! Imagine the reduction in cost and time spend feeding if only hihi had the keys! Not only that but people wanting to see hihi would be more easily able to - no aggressive and dominant bellbirds chasing them away. All this technology could then be applied to any species you wanted to provide feeders for.

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Stuart Attwood 10 months ago

Wonderful stuff! You have had our vote from Team Hihi Bird of the Year 2017

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Allan Anderson 10 months ago

Fantastic, Stuart. Please make sure that individuals assist the tally with their individual votes!

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Tricia Jamieson 10 months ago

I have seen the work that is required at Tiritiri Matangi to keep up with the pressure on the sugar feeders from non-target species. Hihi require all the help they can get and to do this is a sustainable is essential. Long term solutions will help the Hihi population.

This design is remarkable in the opportunities it presents to enhance Hihi long term prospects.

From a practical volunteer sugar feeder I see that this design is easy to clean, limits non-target species and will limit the decay that can be caused by very damp wetland environments.

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Fiona Gordon 10 months ago

Feeding stations are a really important part of hihi management, not only from a supplementary feeding perspective, but also for monitoring (as a trap mechanism and focal point for the birds). As John mentions, hygiene has certainly been an issue in the past so really thrilled to see a more readily cleanable unit being developed. Looking forward to testing the finished product. Fabulous work!

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Nicola Patrick 10 months ago

I'm a real supporter of this - thank you for all your work Allan, and the wider Bushy Park team.

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Jennifer Mcguire 10 months ago

Hey Allan - really like the video you added along with the design improvements. Really good to see you got all the votes you needed and now just meeting the final milestones. This is looking really good.

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Becky Wilson 10 months ago

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone

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Doug Armstrong 10 months ago

Great work Allan, and all who have been involved to date in designing the feeders. The improvements address key issues that people have been thinking about for 23 years (since we first starting using supplementary feeding in hihi management) but have so far been unable to solve.

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