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Four Reasons to Vote Tīeke for Bird of the Year
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary
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Four Reasons to Vote Tīeke for Bird of the Year

Forest & Bird’s famous Bird of the Year poll is back again, and this year some of the ZEALANDIA crew are throwing their weight behind the plucky little wattle bird: tīeke (saddleback). Perhaps you love all birds too much? Maybe you're not into birds at all. Whatever the case, here are a few handy reminders why tīeke should be Bird of the Year!

Saddleback Photo Credit Janice McKenna
Photo Credit Janice McKenna

1. They’re super rare. Although listed as ‘recovering’ tīeke are extremely vulnerable to introduced predators and you are unlikely to see them outside of protected areas such as predator-free islands and fenced sanctuaries. Tīeke were actually wiped out from mainland New Zealand and managed to survive only on off-shore islands, until being brought back to mainland sites such as ZEALANDIA.

2. They’re related to the huia. Tīeke are one of New Zealand’s three wattle birds, along with kōkako and the now extinct huia. Huia were revered by Māori and around the world for their beauty, rarity, and sexual dimorphism. Sadly, this reverence was one of the main reasons they became extinct, as they were hunted for mounted specimens and their elegant tail feathers. The story of the huia is a sad one, but important to consider when we look at other species. Tīeke may have followed without the careful management and conservation work to protect them.

Photo Credit Janice McKenna

3. Tīeke got its ‘saddle’ from Maui According to legend, tīeke was originally all pango (black). When Maui was slowing down the sun, he was getting so close that his hair was melting and his skin blistering. When the cheeky tīeke refused to bring Maui some water to cool him down, Maui grabbed tīeke with his fiery hand and hurled him back down to the earth. To this day, all tīeke carry that karaka (orange) mark across their backs from Maui's fiery hand.

4. They’re making a comeback! The good news is that with increased predator control we could have tīeke back around the country. They have already been documented breeding outside of a fenced sanctuary in Polhill Reserve, Wellington. This is due to dispersal from ZEALANDIA, but also the hard work of a large group of volunteers who trap pests in their local reserve.

Vote tīeke/saddleback for Bird of the Year here: http://www.birdoftheyear.org.nz/your-vote/136?vote

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