Mohua crowned Bird of the Year
Mohua crowned Bird of the Year
The mohua (yellowhead) has been crowned Bird of the Year Forest & Bird’s ninth annual poll.
This year over 12,925 votes were cast in this fiercely contested poll, with the mohua snatching 2,473 votes in total, followed by the ruru (1,716) and the southern rockhopper penguin (1,524).
In the 1800s, the splashy yellow bird was one of the most abundant forest birds in the South Island and Stewart Island. But it is now on the endangered species list, due to habitat loss, predation, and climate change.
“The mohua is a climate change canary. Populations have suffered recently because a series of warm summers have caused beech trees to mast (produce large volumes of seeds) more frequently. In mast years, you see a spike in rat numbers, which eat the beech seed. This in turn causes a spike in stoat numbers, which eat the rats. Once the rats are eaten, the stoats go looking for alternative food, such as mohua, and other native birds,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager, Kevin Hackwell.
“And like many native birds living in beech forests, they’re not just dealing with rats and stoats but also introduced wasps, which compete with our birds for honeydew and insects. It’s thought that booming wasp populations may have helped drive mohua from beech forests in the northern South Island,” Kevin Hackwell says.
Using the tagline “vote mohua, not monorail,” Green Party co-leader and mohua campaigner Metiria Turei helped to raise the profile of this little-known bird that now mainly lives in forest patches in Fiordland, Southland and Otago.
As well as suffering from predation and competition, the mohua’s population has also been reduced by habitat loss, something that will not be helped by the proposed Fiordland monorail.
Extensive work has been done recently to improve the mohua’s chances of survival.
Forest & Bird’s southern branches were instrumental in saving a dying population of mohua in the Catlins by helping to kick start a DOC-run 1080 rat control programme. Now, mohua in the area are thriving, and the area hosts one of the largest populations of the bird.
The runners up in the Bird of the Year poll are the ruru, which was backed by Dunedin’s Tainui school, and the southern rockhopper penguin, championed by the Playcentre New Zealand.
The native bird that polled most poorly was the skua.
“Maybe the reason it did so poorly is that it is a pretty cheeky generalist predator and scavenger.”
“In order to obtain a ready-meal this so-called raptor of the south is known to chase smaller birds until they vomit up their recent catch. Skuas also kill young penguins, muttonbirds and even their own siblings,” says Kevin Hackwell.
Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell, 021 227 8420.
Images of some of the Bird of the Year campaign posters can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/n6ns8eu
Photos of the winning birds can be obtained by calling Mandy Herrick, Forest & Bird media and Communications, on 027 617 8355.
Bird of the Year - Top 10
1. Mohua (2,473)
2. Ruru (1,716)
3. Southern rockhopper penguin (1,524)
4. Kea (625)
5. Albatross (544)
6. Kakapo (396)
7. Fairy tern (380)
8. Bellbird (340)
9. Kokako (332)
10. Kaka (321)
Bird of the Year facts
• Previous winners are the tui (2005), fantail (2006), grey warbler (2007), kakapo (2008), kiwi (2009), kakariki (2010), pukeko (2011) karearea (2012).
• 2013 celebrity campaigners included Hayley Holt/fairy tern, Te Radar/bittern, Jacinda Ardern/black petrel, Barnaby Weir/kereru, Wallace Chapman/shining cuckoo, Peter Dunne/bellbird, Damian O'Conner/kea, Seven Sharp/kakapo.
• Last year, the poll got 10,292 votes.
Forest & Bird is New Zealand's largest independent conservation organisation, with 50 branches nationwide. It protects our native plants, animals and wild places, on land and in our oceans.