Wednesday, 14 May 2014

New Kids on the block .... well new birds in the sanctuary!

One of the big projects that the Rotokare Trust have been working on for a long time is the translocation of 2 speices of native birds. These birds are Popokotea (whitehead) and Tieke (saddleback.) Rotokare have not undertaken any translocations (other than kiwi) before, so are incredibly excited about the project.

Popokotea do currently live in Taranaki, but only in small numbers.
These are birds grow to around 14-18 grams in weight and won't get any bigger than 15cm in height. They are birds that are hard to spot as they live high up in the canopies of mature forests. Popokotea stay in flocks of up to 30 birds.


 Maori believed that the popokotea were a warning that kehua (ghosts) were about.
An interesting story about the Popokotea's nests is that in November and December the long-tail cuckoo (Koekoeaa) will often lay their eggs in the little nests. Thus leaving the popokotea to raise chicks that will eventually grow to be 7 times the weight of its foster parent!

One of the marvellous catch team Dave holding one of the stars of the show.

Tieke have an amazing story of survival. As recently as 1964 there was only one small population of these birds that were found on Hen Island (Hen & Chicken Islands.) These birds were moved to pest-free off shore island, in what was a world leading example of saving birds from extinction.
Over the last 50 years these birds have been translocated to various sanctuaries and islands and the numbers are flourishing.

Kaye with one of the first Tieke caught.

The Tieke nests near the ground (often in holes in trees) and spends a lot of time feeding on the ground. This is what makes it vunerable to predators.
The bird gets its name from the markings on it's back which look like it is wearing a saddle.
Maori legend says that after Maui slowed the sun he was incredibly thirsty and hot, he asked the bird to get him some water and the bird refused. Maui, being angry, grabbed the bird with his burning hand thus leaving a brown mark across its back.
 The Saddleback was once hunted for food but was given legal protection in 1896.
The Tieke can range in weight between 70-80grams and can grow to around 25 cms in height.
The Tieke belongs to the wattlebird family of the kokako and huia (now extinct.)

All factual information I have used in this blog were taken from Andrew Crowe's
'Which New Zealand Bird?'

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