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Grey warbler surprise winner in Bird of The Year

21 October 2007
Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Grey warbler surprise winner in Bird of The Year

Contact: Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell, 021 227 8420

Who says small, drab, grey insectivores can’t be loved? The grey warbler (riroriro) has emerged as the surprise winner of Forest & Bird’s Bird of the Year poll.

Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says the grey warbler is a surprising recipient of the title of New Zealand’s best-loved bird.

“In previous years the title has been won by flashier and better-known birds, the fantail and the tui, so it is great to see the more subtle charms of the grey warbler take top spot this time. The grey warbler is a very special little bird and I’m delighted to see it have its chance to shine.”

Found throughout New Zealand, the grey warbler/riroriro (Gerygone igata) is New Zealand’s lightest bird (equal with the rifleman) measuring 11cm in length and weighing just 6.5 grams – one-third the weight of a mouse.

The grey warbler’s tiny size and inconspicuous grey feathers mean the grey warbler is heard more often than seen – its beautiful rising and falling song is often noted as a sign of the arrival of spring. Only the male birds sing this song, which served as a seasonal reminder to Maori to plant their crops.

In his 1910 book Birds of the Water, Wood and Waste natural history writer Herbert Guthrie described the charm of the grey warbler’s song: “Presently, from some manuka thicket, a sombre plumaged little bird will emerge, light on some topmost twig, and pour forth to three-quarters of the globe - for in his ecstasy he nearly sings a circle - this faint sweet trill that heralds fuller spring.

The grey warbler’s light weight enables it to hover momentarily as its pursues its diet of insects – something few birds can do.

Grey warblers often inadvertently become parents to shining cuckoos, as the adult cuckoos lay their eggs in grey warbler’s nests, where the unwitting grey warbler parents raise the cuckoo chick as their own after the cuckoo chick pushes the warblers’ own eggs and chicks out of the nest.

To hear the gray warbler’s song, go to:

For more information on grey warblers, go to:

Tangi te riroriro, te tohu o te raumati
When the riroriro sings, it is a sign of summer

The top 10 in Bird of the Year 2007:

1. Grey warbler/riroriro
2. Kereru/wood pigeon
3. Tui
4. Black-fronted tern
5. Kakapo
6. Fantail/piwakawaka
7. Kea
8. Pukeko
9. Morepork/ruru
10. (=)Kokako, kiwi


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