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The Westie chicks have arrived! First

The Westie chicks have arrived! First Auckland mainland hihi hatch

Hihi transferred to Arkin the Park in the WaitakereRangesearlier this year have hatched chicks, Forest & Bird is delighted to announce.

Arkin the Park Project Manager Sandra Jack says the chicks are the first generation of hihi (or stitchbird) to hatch on the Aucklandmainland for more than a century.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the arrival of our first ‘Westie chicks’. The fact that the first generation of ‘immigrants’ brought to the WaitakereRangesfrom TiritiriMatangiIslandis breeding successfully is a good sign that they have adapted well to their new home and are thriving.”

Earlier this year the 59 mostly juvenile hihi were transferred to CascadeKauriPark, home of the community restoration project Arkin the Park, following an intensive programme of pest control that means the birds are more likely to survive on the mainland without being preyed on by introduced pests such as possums, rats and stoats.

The transfer was the first time hihi had lived on the Aucklandmainland since their populations were wiped out by predators in the late1800s.

Hihi were reduced to one population on Little Barrier/Hauturu Island in the Hauraki Gulfbut recent conservation efforts have seen new populations established on TiritiriMatangiIsland, KapitiIslandand Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellingtonwhere they are safe from predators.

“It’s a very exciting stage in what is basically an experiment to see if hihi can thrive in an area with low predator numbers,” Sandra Jack says. “If chicks fledge successfully and survive through to being able to breed themselves, then it’s looking very promising for the future of these rare and special birds. If they can survive at the Ark, they may have a future in other areas on the mainland, where they were once common”.

She says hihi are still vulnerable to extinction and establishing additional populations is a core focus for their recovery. “We hope that a self-sustaining population will become established in the forest in the WaitakereRanges, improving the species’ chances of long-term survival.”

Sandra Jack says the arrival of the chicks is a huge buzz for the large team of volunteers who continue to maintain pest control at Arkin the Park to keep the hihi safe.

Hihi are still vulnerable to extinction and establishing additional populations is a core focus for their recovery. A self-sustaining population of hihi in the WaitakereRangeswill improve the species’ chances of long-term survival. “It’s great news, it’s exactly what we’ve been waiting for.” says Richard Griffiths, the Department of Conservation’s Hihi Recovery Group representative. “We’ll be watching closely to see how the population does over the summer and beyond.”

AucklandRegionalCouncilParksand Heritage Committee Chair Sandra Coney says it is wonderful to see hihi chicks appearing in the Arkin the Park so soon. “It’s great to see the hihi have settled in so well they are reproducing, and it will be a special experience for visitors if they spot one of the fledgling birds. It is especially impressive as we did not know how these translocated birds would do in an unfenced area.”

“The Arkin the Park continues to go from strength to strength and much of this comes down to the dedication of the volunteers and Forest & Bird who initiated the project,” she says


  • Ark in the Parkis a partnership between the Waitakere Branch of Forest & Bird and Auckland Regional Council, supported by the Department of Conservation, Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund, Waitakere City Council, ASB Community Trust and Waitakere and Portage Licensing Trusts.

  • Hihi/stitchbird(Notiomystis cincta) is today one of New Zealand’s rarest birds but was once found throughout the NorthIsland. The impact of introduced predators, habitat destruction and possibly disease reduced the distribution of hihi to Hauturu/Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

  • Recovery efforts since the 1980s have so far failed to establish further self-sustaining populations, although two small populations remain at two translocation sites with intensive management and support. Establishing additional populations is a key focus of DOC’s Hihi Recovery Plan.

  • Although the population on Tiritiri Matangi is gradually expanding, at least half the young produced each year die of starvation, due to the shortage of mature forest habitat on the island. The forest at Arkin the Park is botanically similar to the hihi’s main habitat on Hauturu/Little Barrier.

  • Until recently hihi were believed to belong to the honeyeater family along with the tui and bellbird, but recent genetic studies indicate they may be more closely related to the family of birds that includes the saddleback and extinct huia.

  • Hihi have distinctive large, bright eyes, an upright tail and long cat-like “whiskers” around the base of the neck. Male hihi are more colourful, with a jet-black head and white “ear” tufts, bright yellow shoulders and breast band, a white wing bar and mottled tan to grey-brown body. Females are smaller and are a more sombre olive to grey-brown colour.

  • Hihi are readily detected in dense forest by their strident call, which has been likened to the word “stitch” or two stones being repeatedly struck together. They also have a low warbling song that can last several minutes.

  • The birds feed predominantly on nectar, but also eat insects, particularly in the breeding season. Feeding stations will be built in the park near walking tracks so visitors can encounter hihi more readily.

  • Hihi nest in tree cavities (which may make them more vulnerable to predators) and have an unusual mating system in which females may breed with a single male or several. They are also the only bird known to sometimes mate face to face.

ENDS

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