What's On at Zealandia


Birds of a (variety of) feathers
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary

Birds of a (variety of) feathers

Walking in the sanctuary is a whole new experience in autumn and winter. Fungi peek their heads out of the ground, the green colours of the plants pop in the damp ngahere/forest and different manu come together in groups to forage. 

You’ll see multiple species like pōpokatea/whitehead, pīwakawaka/fantail, riroriro/grey warbler and tīeke/saddleback all working together in the ngahere at the moment. These 'mixed-species flocks’ are thought to benefit manu by improving foraging (e.g. species like pīwakawaka can take advantage of insects that are flushed by other birds) and reducing predation risk. 

Researchers have found that within the flocks there tends to be a ‘leader’ bird species that determines where the group goes, e.g., pōpokatea in places like Zealandia, plus one or more follower species. Interestingly, the leader species tends to have good communication and anti-predator alarm systems. Therefore, by tagging along with a leader species, follower birds like the pīwakawaka may be able to eavesdrop on the pōpokatea so they can be less vigilant and focus more on foraging!

Photo by Heidi Benson

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