New resident: Kiwi Birdlife Park senior wildlife keeper Al Browne with South Island kaka chick, Russell

Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park’s newest resident’s been named after his adopted grandad.

Park boss Paul Kavanagh says Russell, a South Island kaka chick, has been named in honour of Southlander Russell Evans, who died in July, “an amazingly dedicated and passionate conservationist” who cared for the chick’s parents for years at Bush Haven in Invercargill.

Evans and his wife, Mary, ran the native bird rehabilitation centre for about 20 years from their home at Otatara before ultimately retiring early last year, and the breeding pair of kaka was relocated to Queenstown.

Kavanagh says Russell hatched on December 21 and is doing well.

“South Island kaka have been an amazing, boisterous and much-loved addition to our park whanau.

“Their boisterous and inquisitive nature has been enthralling our visitors who are keen to learn more about this incredible native species.

“We are doing what we can to help preserve them for future generations as we are involved in the breed-for-release programme for these rare birds.”

At the moment, Russell’s being weighed and health-checked every couple of days before he fledges – that’s when he’s capable of flight, but still reliant on his mum and dad for food.

Park staff will take a step back before the fledging so he doesn’t get too used to humans, to give him the best chance of survival in the wild.