Context. The risk of secondary poisoning to native fauna during pest control operations is an issue of global concern. In New Zealand, non-target impacts during sodium fluoroacetate (1080) operations are particularly contentious. 1080 is used extensively for pest control for conservation, bovine tuberculosis control, and in plantation forestry for seedling protection from herbivores. The endemic New Zealand falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae) breeds in Kaingaroa forest, an intensively managed pine plantation where regular 1080 poison operations are conducted; however, causes of mortality and risks of secondary poisoning by 1080 are not well documented.
Aims. We aimed to investigate mortality and survival of adult falcons with an emphasis on assessing the possible role of 1080 poisoning in annual mortality.
Methods. Using radio-telemetry and visual observations, we monitored 37 marked adult falcons before and after 1080 operations in 2013–14 (16 through carrot-bait and 21 through cereal-bait operations) and assessed mortality causes through post-mortem examinations. Using Program MARK, the annual survival rates for adults and independent juveniles were estimated from long-term banding data (2003–2014).
Key results. Survival of falcons was high through both cereal-bait (21/21) and carrot-bait (15/16) 1080 operations (overall 95% CI for survival = 84–100%). The exception was a radio-tagged male that died of unknown causes within a fortnight of an operation and tested negative for 1080 residues. Three falcons were depredated by introduced mammals. One falcon was found dead in an emaciated condition but evidently died from head injury through Australasian magpie (Cracticus tibicen) attack. The annual survival rate of falcons estimated from long-term banding was 80 ± 6.0% (mean ± s.e.) for adults and 29 ± 0.1% for juveniles.
Conclusions. No adult falcon death was attributable to 1080 poisoning in this study. Identifiable mortalities were attributable to depredation by introduced mammals and an injury from an Australasian magpie. The annual survival rate of Kaingaroa falcons was comparable to those of other raptor species worldwide.
Implications. The risk to adult falcons from 1080 secondary poisoning is likely low. Whether this is also true for juveniles requires further study.