The chattering, white, bush-canary!

English name: Whitehead

Māori name: Pōpokotea

Scientific name: Mohoua albicilla

NZ Status: Endemic (only found in NZ)

Conservation Status (NZTCS): Not threatened

Found: North Island

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, predation

Did you know? Whiteheads make good older siblings! Offspring from the previous year often help their parents to defend their territory and rear the younger chicks.

Photo Credit: Digitaltrails

The whitehead is a small insect-eating bird from the family, Mohouidae, which is only found in New Zealand. It is a busy and gregarious bird that has a loud ‘chirruping’ song, often chattering together in large groups. Males have a white head and belly while their wings and tails are light brown. Females and juveniles have a brown crown and nape. They are very small, about half the size of a sparrow. Whiteheads are only found in the North Island and are common in many native forests and some older exotic forests. Their numbers have decreased in many places, but they are flourishing in areas where mammal predators are controlled.

Whiteheads are the only North Island host for the parasitic long-tailed cuckoo, a species regarded as ‘at risk’. The long-tailed cuckoo sneakily lays her eggs in the whitehead’s nest, fooling the whitehead into incubating the egg and raising the chick as her own.

Whiteheads were extinct in the Wellington area until they were transferred from Kapiti Island to the sanctuary in 2001 and 2002.

Look for them: These birds can be seen throughout the sanctuary, in small groups high in trees. They are usually spotted looking for spiders and insects on tree trunks and leaves, often hanging upside down as they search for food.