Young Westland petrels disoriented by lights and rescued and released - photo Bruce Menteath

Westland Petrel/Tāiko chicks fledge between November to January from their colony just south of Punakaiki. Their first flight can be a tough one, as they are inexperienced fliers, and can become disorientated by bright lights and poor weather conditions. Adult birds are also found at any time of year.

Once on the ground they need our help, as they are unable to take flight again easily, and are very vulnerable to being struck by cars and attacked by dogs.

The main flight path area for these birds at the northern end of the Barrytown flats has no street lights, which is great for the birds ordinarily but means that they may be distracted by vehicle lights and come down on the highway.  These large all black birds are then almost invisible against the black tarmac until the next car comes speeding along.

If you’re driving in the area, please be mindful of these birds particularly November to January, and travel a little slower.  The same applies in all coastal areas where penguins could be crossing too – better for wildlife, safer for you, and less fuel used – win – win – win.

The Department of Conservation and Westland Petrel Conservation Trust work together to help these birds get back out to the sea, and document when/where all birds are found, so we can work to remove attractive lights sources or hazards.

Particularly around Punakaiki and Barrytown but in fact anywhere between Hokitika and Westport, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the risk to this special bird, which only breeds in one place in the world.

To give them the best chance of success:

  • Avoid leaving bright outdoor lights on after dark and close curtains and blinds, as this confuses them
  • Keep dog(s) secure at home
  • Keep a cardboard box, with air holes and towel in your car, just in case!

If you find a bird on the ground,

  1. Use a towel (or item of clothing) to cover the bird and gently lift it into a box (unwrap the bird once in the box), or move it away from danger (traffic).
    • If you feel uncomfortable handling the bird or require assistance, please immediately call the numbers provided.
  2. Birds found can be transported to the “Petrel Drop Off Boxes” at the DOC Visitor Centre (if the centre is closed go through the gate to the left of the front door).

*Leave your details in the log book.

  1. If you are unable to transport the bird please call the numbers provided.
  2. Please do not attempt to release the bird yourself.

24-hour contact numbers

Westland Petrel Conservation Trust 03 731 1826Department on Conservation 0800 DOCHOT (362468)

What happens next?

  • All birds are health-checked by DOC or the WPCT. Healthy and uninjured birds will be assisted to take flight again.
  • Injured or underweight birds are provided veterinary and rehabilitative care by DOC.
  • If you would like to know about your bird or attend its release, please let us know.


The flyer is here if you would like to print and keep handy, share etc:  2023 11 Westland petrel flyer PDF