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MEDIA RELEASE: Titipounamu/rifleman chicks the size of bumblebees hatched on Te Ahumairangi Hill
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary

MEDIA RELEASE: Titipounamu/rifleman chicks the size of bumblebees hatched on Te Ahumairangi Hill

The titipounamu/rifleman pair living on Te Ahumairangi Hill in Wellington have become proud parents.

Wellington - 13 October 2021: The titipounamu/rifleman pair living on Te Ahumairangi Hill in Wellington have become proud parents. 

With their chicks, currently the size of a bumblebees, the pair of New Zealand’s tiniest birds are making history. 

When the pair were first spotted in August, 3km away from Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne, it was thought to be the first sighting of their species in that area in more than 100 years.  

Titipounamu were introduced to Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne from Wainuiomata Mainland Island in 2019. Breeding has been successful inside the safety of the predator-free sanctuary and until now there has been no successful breeding outside the fence in Wellington City. 

Zealandia volunteer and wildlife photographer Melissa Boardman has been keeping tabs on the tiny birds. 

Te Ahumairangi Hill is within Melissa’s neighbourhood, which meant she could monitor the birds over lockdown, and she has been regularly visiting since.  

“First, I discovered the pair building a nest together and I continued to check on them regularly while they were incubating their eggs. Recently I discovered the pair bringing tiny morsels of food to the nest and spending less time inside, which means the chicks are starting to hatch.” says Melissa. 

This incredibly exciting news is made possible due to the amazing restoration efforts around the city.  

“Wellington is on a journey to create urban places where biodiversity can thrive, and it is the efforts of the community, our Councils and many others that helps ensure Zealandia’s birds can spread beyond the fence.” says Zealandia’s Dr Danielle Shanahan.  

Wellington City Council’s Biosecurity Specialist, Henk Louw says; “There are many actions we can do to help these birds have the best chance of at survival. Keeping your dogs on a lead while walking on Te Ahumairangi Hill, and any outdoor reserve, is especially important. Off-leash dogs and roaming cats can kill birds, but their presence can also cause birds to abandon their nests or chicks out of stress.”  

Titipounamu are rapidly becoming an icon of wildlife conservation in Wellington, where they had disappeared from the city area due to human activity and mammalian pests. This year, Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne and Wellington City Council are getting behind titipounamu for Forest & Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition to raise awareness and donations to protect this special bird. Voting runs from 18-31 October. 

Titipounamu facts: 

  • One of two surviving species endemic to the New Zealand wren family 

  • They weigh only 6.5 grams 

  • Their high-pitched calls are often inaudible to humans 

  • Titipounamu are monogamous species with long-term pair bonds 

  • Between August and February titipounamu will build spherical nests in an existing cavity. Both sexes contribute to incubation, nestling and fledgling care 

 

Image credit: Melissa Boardman

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