Stitch in time is saving native bird
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