Stitch in time is sav­ing na­tive bird

Taranaki Daily News - - News - MIKE WAT­SON

The last time the en­dan­gered na­tive hihi, or stitch­bird, suc­cess­fully bred in Taranaki, Queen Vic­to­ria was rul­ing the Bri­tish Em­pire.

Now Ro­tokare Scenic Re­serve Trust, a na­tive bird sanc­tu­ary 63km south east of New Ply­mouth, has recorded 17 ju­ve­nile hihi hatched in the past breed­ing sea­son.

This is the first hatch­ing of hihi chicks in Taranaki in 130 years and comes on the heels of 40 adult hihi birds from Tir­i­tiri Matangi Is­land re­leased at Ro­tokare last year, Ro­tokare Scenic Re­serve Trust sanc­tu­ary man­ager Si­mon Collins said.

A sec­ond re­lease of 30 hihi ju­ve­niles, also hatched at Tir­i­tiri Matangi, was un­der­taken at Ro­tokare on Sun­day.

The event in­volved about 100 vol­un­teers, as well as spon­sors and sup­port­ers of the re­serve trust.

Last week­end’s re­lease ex­er­cise at Ro­tokare also saw 10 hihi ju­ve­niles set free within Bushy Park Sanc­tu­ary, north of Whanganui.

Hihi are among the coun­try’s most en­dan­gered na­tive bird species.

There are fewer than 3000 hihi ex­ist­ing on seven sites where they have been moved from Tir­i­tiri Matangi and re­leased, Collins said.

The other translo­ca­tion sites in­clude Ro­tokare, Bushy Park Sanc­tu­ary, Kapiti Is­land, Zealan­dia, Maun­gatau­tari

‘‘The re­lease of hihi last year was the first time the birds had been back in Taranaki in 130 years,’’ Collins said.

Af­ter a 46 per cent fledg­ing suc­cess rate, the 17 chicks were hatched from the adults birds re­leased last year, he said.

In com­par­i­son Tir­i­tiri Matangi Is­land, the only site in New Zealand where hihi can be sourced from, had only 24 per cent fledg­ing suc­cess.

‘‘Hihi are re­ally tricky birds to breed from,’’ Collins said.

‘‘We had a 63 per cent hatch­ing suc­cess rate from the last breed­ing sea­son but no one yet knows why there is such a high fail­ure rate with hihi breed­ing.

‘‘We know that dis­ease can be a fac­tor, and mites in the nests, and pos­si­bly ge­net­ics could be a rea­son too.’’

Collins said the suc­cess of hav­ing 17 chicks hatched at Ro­tokare could be at­trib­uted to the tire­less work of vol­un­teers who mon­i­tor and top up feed­ing sta­tions through­out the 230 hectare preda­tor proof re­serve.

‘‘Ev­ery three days vol­un­teers re­fresh the sugar feed­ers for hihi.

‘‘The birds are be­ing reg­u­larly fed and we know this is a large rea­son be­hind the breed­ing suc­cess at Ro­tokare.’’

Spon­sor OMV New Zealand also played a ma­jor sup­port­ive role in the re­lease ex­er­cise, Collins said.

A na­tive hihi

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