Tīeke and Pōpokatea Translocation

 

In May 2014, Rotokare staff and volunteers assisted conservation scientist and translocation biologist Kevin Parker (of Parker Conservation) and his team  with a translocation of tīeke/saddleback and pōpokatea/whitehead to Rotokare.

Approximately half of the tīeke and all of the pōpokatea were sourced from Hauturu o Toi (Little Barrier Island); the remaining tīeke were captured from the nearby Bushy Park in Whanganui. 

Early post-translocation monitoring indicated that the birds were doing well. Tīeke popoulations have boomed in the last few years while the pōpokatea population is stablising.

 

About the Birds

Pōpokatea/whitehead are found in Taranaki, though they are sparsely distributed and completely absent from Rotokare. They are a flocking bird and an important host for the brooding-parasitic long-tail cuckoo. Cuckoos lay their eggs in another 'host' bird's nest; the host, none the wiser, ends up looking after the imposter chick. The cuckoo chick soon outgrows the host parent, all the while still being feed and looked after.

Tīeke/saddleback are an endangered member of the ancient wattle bird family. Other members include the now-extinct huia and the very endangered kokako. Tīeke once lived throughout the North Island but rats and a reduction in habitat reduced the total population down to just 500 individuals on a single offshore island (Hen Island). Since then, intensive conservation techniques have been used to save them, and there are now ~7,000 tīeke on islands and mainland sanctuaries throughout the country. 

Tīeke have been locally extinct from Taranaki for ~150 years, so Rotokare has made conservation history by bringing these birds back.