News

Mana bellbird quits island life, makes beeline for Zealandia

September 5, 2012

Female bellbird

Female bellbird by Steve Attwood.

A female bellbird from an offshore island sanctuary has made a surprise journey to mainland sanctuary by the city Zealandia – turning up right under the nose of the Conservation Officer who originally banded her.

One month after Matu Booth helped transfer 60 bellbird from Kapiti Island to Mana Island for their Restoration Plan (a partnership between DOC and Friends of Mana Island (FOMI)) one of the birds he had attached leg bands to made a surprise appearance 25km away in Karori. Booth was doing his rounds last Friday at Zealandia when he noticed the newcomer.

“I immediately noticed the unfamiliar leg band combination – you do get very tuned in to those colours over time. There was a lot of interest from the resident males, they were chasing her and singing to her. I went into a bit of a tizzy and as soon as I got back to the office did a check on our database then emailed DOC and the Friends of Mana Island, who confirmed the bird was from their recent transfer. I helped set up the aviary for that transfer and banded nine birds myself – I’ve just checked my records and this happens to be one of those nine.”

Zealandia staff hope the new female will stay and add genetic variation for the local bellbird population. Conservation Manager Raewyn Empson was happy to hear about the sighting.

“She’s just in time for the spring breeding season so it would be absolutely fantastic if she sticks around. We have observed a high rate of dispersal with bellbird that makes it difficult to establish a population here – we see our birds, especially juvenile females, leaving the safety of the valley each year, often not to return. We’ve also seen the reverse – unbanded bellbird with different song dialects coming in to the sanctuary to breed; we know they’ve come from outside but we can’t know where from. It’s wonderful to get this information about the distance they can travel – she’s made a good choice if she decides to stay.”

Mana Island is closer to the mainland than Kapiti Island and Kapiti bellbirds are not banded. Banding gives conservationists useful information to track the success of translocations and resulting populations. Two of the birds from the same Kapiti-Mana transfer fell prey to mammalian pests on the mainland, one in Titahi Bay.

Although occasional single bellbirds were seen in the Wellington area before the sanctuary in Karori was fenced there was no breeding population – meaning they were functionally extinct. Bellbird are found naturally in forest parks including the Rimutakas and Tararuas but are at risk in unprotected areas from mammalian pests.

*BREAKING NEWS: at time of release a second bellbird from the same transfer has been sighted at Zealandia today*

[ENDS]

Additional information:

The female bellbird was seen Friday 31 August by Matu Booth near Zealandia’s upper dam.
Band colours: Y/M – Y/pB (Left: yellow over metal, Right: yellow over pale blue.
This bellbird was transferred to Mana Island from Kapiti Island on 31 July 2012. It was their second transfer of bellbird (the first being July 2012).

More more on this media release please contact Lauren.