Fruits and Flowers

Plague (rainbow) skink

In urban gardens plague skinks have been known to feed on small fruits including strawberries and blackberries, although they prefer to feed on a wide variety of invertebrates, acting as both predators and scavengers. We have no information as to what their dmage might look like.

Can be confused with:

Similar types of fruit damage could be caused by other species of skink and by invertebrates.

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Mouse

Mouse damaged fruit and seeds can be identified by the presence of tiny (approximately 0.5mm wide) parallel incisor marks.

Can be confused with:
Rats leave similar parallel marks, but they are 2-6mm wide depending on the species.

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Kiore

Kiore are likely to damage fruit, flowers and seeds in the same way as ship rats and Norway rats.

Can be confused with:
Damage by ship rats and Norway rats.

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Ship Rat

Fruits and seeds can make up the majority of a ship rat’s diet. Small seeds will be completely destroyed through chewing and small fruits will be eaten whole. Ship rats will carefully chew away hard parts of larger seeds to get to the fleshy kernel within. When a ship rat eats a larger fruit, distinctive tooth marks are left by the parallel incisors.

Can be confused with:
Ship rat damage to fruit, seed, and flowers can be confused with damage caused by other rodent species and possum. However, the width of possum incisor teeth is generally wider than 5 mm, rat teeth range from about 2 mm to 5 mm, and mouse teeth are about 0.5 mm wide.

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Norway rat

Norway rats eat virtually anything, including fruit.

Can be confused with:
Possums and other rat species also eat fruit.

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Possum

Possums love fruits and flowers.  Look for chew marks: if the width of the incisor marks is greater than 5 mm then possums are the most likely culprit. Possums particularly like fruits with lots of energy and nutrients, like tawa, taraire, puriri, kohekohe, kahikatea, karaka, five-finger, kiekie, nikau (fleshy stem only), and hinau.  Possums like the rind on citrus fruit including lemons! Surprisingly perhaps they also like the seeds inside rewarewa capsules. 

They also like the flowers of kiekie, nikau (fleshy stem only), puriri, kohekohe, five-finger, kowhai, pohutukawa, rata, rewarewa, rose, pinecone and kahikatea ‘flower-cones’ and many others.  Sometimes possums eat so many of the flowers that the plants never have a chance to set fruit. 

Can be confused with:

Rats and mice.  If the incisor marks are wider than 5 mm it is most likely possum, between 5 and 2 mm one of the rat species, and less than 2 mm a mouse.  However, juvenile possum teeth can make marks very similar to rat teeth.  Larger mammals will likely swallow the fruit whole. Fruit can also be damaged by native birds such as kaka, kea, kakariki and exotic birds such as rosella.

Flowers can also be eaten by native birds such as kaka, kea, kakariki and exotic birds such as rosella.  Flowers in the understorey can be eaten by fallow deer, red deer, rusa deer, sambar deer, sika deer, white-tailed deer, Norway rat, ship rat, kiore, feral pig, and feral goat.

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Brown hare

Hares on the river flat of the Avoca River in Canterbury are known to eat the seeds of sweet briar (Rosa rubigonosa). It is not known what other fruits or flowers hares eat.

Can be confused with:

Unknown.

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Dama wallaby

In Australia, dama wallabies are known to feed on acacia seeds but in New Zealand there is no information about the extent to which they eat fruit and flowers.

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Chamois

Chamois eat a lot of alpine grasses and alpine herbs including flowering and seeding plants. There is little information available on specific characteristics that would help distinguish signs of their fruit and flower browsing from that of other browsing species.

Can be confused with:

Where chamois distribution overlaps that of red deer, tahr, feral goats, or domestic or feral sheep, it will be difficult to differentiate damage to fruit and flowers caused by each species. Hares also feed on alpine grasses and herbs and where the two species overlap, it will also be difficult to differentiate between these species.

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Himalayan Tahr (thar)

Alpine herbs and shrubs, and presumably their flowers, are a significant component of Himalayan tahr diet. They are known to eat tussock (Chionochloa spp.), native broom (Carmichaelia spp.) and Mount Cook buttercup (Ranunculus lyallii). No distinctive chewing or biting characteristics are known to distinguish their browse from other grazing animals so if you find signs of grazing in their known range, look also for other signs (such as droppings and herd sightings).

Can be confused with:

Browse by Himalayan tahr on flowers and fruits can be confused for the browse of sheep, chamois, red deer, brushtail possums and brown hare, all of which co-exist with tahr over much of their range.

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Hedgehog

Analysis of hedgehog stomach contents in New Zealand often found some vegetation, especially mosses, grass and clover leaves, dead podocarp leaves, occasional seeds (mainly grass seed), and berry seeds.

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Rainbow lorikeet

Rainbow lorikeets feed mainly on fruit, pollen and nectar. Bite marks may be visible in fruit but no feeding sign is likely to be visible after the birds feed on pollen or nectar unless they snip the flower open to reach the nectar.Rainbow lorikeets feed in pairs or small groups in tree tops. Rainbow lorikeets rarely come to the ground unless attracted to supplementary food put out for them. 

Can be confused with:

If rainbow lorikeets were to escape into the wild in New Zealand, their feeding sign could be confused with that of eastern rosella and native parakeets.  However, damage from kaka, kea, and kakapo is likely to show larger bite marks and will be confined to areas where these species occur.

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Rook

Rooks eat small amounts of fruit and have also been observed caching walnuts. If you find some nuts or seeds in a hole in the ground covered with grasses then you may have found a rook cache.

Can be confused with:

Rook damage to fruits and flowers can be confused with damage caused by other fruit and flower eaters, such as birds, possums and rats.

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