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Toutouwai (North Island Robin) release June 2014

At the time of European arrival, toutouwai were widespread throughout mainland North Island. Today they are mainly restricted to central areas from Taranaki to the Uruwera Ranges with the remaining populations occurring on offshore islands.

robins-ashore-1In Northland they are locally extinct other than two small populations, one in Puketi Forest and the other on Moturua Island in the eastern Bay of Islands.

In 1986 16 toutouwai were brought to Moturua from Mamaku in the Bay of Plenty. The population was estimated at 30 birds in 1994 then declined most likely due to high rat numbers. But it failed to recover once pests were removed. Doug Armstrong said "it is possible the the robin population was too depleted or either female or male only were left."

In June this year 43 toutouwai were brought to now pest-free Moturua from Pureora Forest in the central North Island. The 25 males and 18 females were welcomed by kaumatua and kuia from Te Rawhiti and released at Otupoho (Homestead) Bay. About 60 people gathered to see the birds fly free from their specially adapted boxes. There was both joy and relief that they all travelled well.

The birds are all banded. A yellow/metal band on the right leg indicates females and red/metal indicates males. Each bird has an individual colour band on their left leg. Project Island Song volunteers are monitoring the toutouwai, first for signs of dispersal from Otupohu Bay across the island, then for pairing and nesting. And soon to see how they are breeding.

robins-ashore-1-1The toutouwai translocation saw a special relationship to develop between Ngati Kuta and Patukeha hapu from Te Rawhiti and Ngati Rereahu iwi from Pureora. Several visits took place to discuss the translocation – or to whangai (adopt) the birds. Kelvin Stanley from Ngati Rereahu came north with the birds and stayed on to monitor them. He said "I've finally made it back home and will pass on the good news about the success of the robin translocation/release to Moturua. I spent a month getting to know the island better and keeping an eye and ear on the situation with our pitoitoi whangai and have found that they seemed to have settled in well and have even started to pair up for breeding."

North island robin are called toutouwai in the north but are also known as pitoitoi in some places.

Download our full story on the toutouwai release here or for more information about toutouwai see; http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/north-island-robin-toutouwai/

Tags: New Zealand birds, Toutouwai, Species reintroductions, Hapu partnership

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