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Hihi returns home after 125 years

Stitchbird re-introduced to mainland NZ…

One of New Zealand’s rarest birds - the Stitchbird Notiomystis cincta - today returns to the Auckland mainland for the first time in 125 years. 30 of the rare birds, locally called ‘Hihi’, are to be released in the Waitakere Ranges after being brought over from the Tiritiri Matangi Islands, itself a reintroduction site for Stitchbird.

Once widespread over the North Island and adjacent offshore islands of New Zealand, Stitchbird has suffered significantly from the joint threats of introduced predators and habitat destruction. The release will be the first time the birds have been on the Auckland mainland since they became locally extinct in the 1880s.Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) are one of the organisations involved in the reintroduction programme, named ‘Ark in the Park’:

Hihi are currently still vulnerable to extinction and establishing additional populations is a core focus for their recovery. commented Sandra Jack of Forest & Bird. We hope that a self-sustaining population will become established in the forest in the Waitakere Ranges, improving the species’ chances of long-term survival.

This month’s transfer will be followed by a second transfer of another 30 birds in April. Although supplementary food and nest boxes will be provided initially, it is expected that Stitchbird will eventually be able to rely on natural food sources and nesting sites in the 1000 hectares of mature forest at the site. Intensive use of traps and poison bait stations, maintained largely through the efforts of a large team of community volunteers, will protect the birds from predation by invasive species like possums, rats and stoats. The birds will be fitted with transmitters so they can be effectively monitored for up to six weeks after release.

4th July 2014