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Wild at heart . . . A juvenile kingfisher photographed at Hoopers Inlet on the Otago Peninsula after having just caught a crab. Three juvenile kingfishers like this one were released at Tutaepatu Lagoon last Friday. PHOTO: CRAIG MCKENZIE

By SHELLEY TOPP

Three orphaned kingfisher (kotare) chicks have been released at Tuhaitra Coastal Park at Woodend Beach.

The chicks were taken to Tutaepatu Lagoon last Friday and released by Jackie Stevenson, of Bird Rescue Christchurch, after being found abandoned at an Ashburton farm.

The chicks were rescued by a farmer after the tree in which they were nesting was felled by a bulldozer. He took them to his neighbour, farmer and conservationist Russell Langdon.

Russell farms cattle at his Westerfield property, where he has also established a 10-hectare wetland and wildlife conservation area called Riverbridge.

Freedom . . . .Jackie Stevenson releases the three young kingfishers PHOTO: SUPPLIED

He spent two weeks caring for the chicks, feeding them every two to three hours, before contacting Jackie for help. She agreed to look after them until they were ready for release.

It was initially planned to release the chicks at Riverbridge and Russell is disappointed that has not happened. However, Jackie said it was decided to let the chicks go to Tuhaitara Coastal Park because it was a shorter journey for them from Christchurch.

“Travelling long distance in a car, even with the air-conditioning on in the extremely hot weather we have been having, is too tough on them,” she said.

Park general manager Greg Byrnes said the area was a great place to release the chicks because it was predator-free and already had a good kingfisher population.

The New Zealand kingfisher is one of the country’s best-known native birds. It has a non-threatened conservation status.