Bird Monitoring on the Islands
An October survey of nesting and breeding activity of toutouwai (North Island robin) on Moturua Island revealed positive signs. Nesting pairs were found, one of the indicators being the male taking food to the female who remains on the nest. Unbanded birds were also recorded, most likely offspring from last year’s breeding. Guardian’s volunteers were joined by members of Puketi Forest Trust and the Ornithological Society (OSNZ) for the survey.
Tīeke (North Island saddleback) have also been monitored since the two releases – birds came from Mauimua in March and Tiritiri Matangi in May. As hoped, the tieke have paired up, often with those from the same island population of their origin. It is expected the genetic mix will happen with the next generation. 70% of all banded birds have been recorded on both Moturua and Urupukapuka: good news, as it indicates that the rogue cat on Urupukapuka earlier this year did not impact on the Mauimua birds.
The tīeke saddleback monitoring is being carried out by Aaron Heap, a Northtec undergrad student. We asked him to reveal some of the secrets of successful bird-watching.
Tell us a bit about bird monitoring on the islands.
Monitoring needs to be methodical and requires lots of patience. As the saying goes, it is the early bird that catches the worm. You spend a lot of time looking at great views – but generally you’d only monitor in good weather, so not such an unpleasant way to spend a morning.
What are you looking for?
We are monitoring to see how many birds have set up territories, and with whom. The tricky bit is identifying the leg band colour combinations, so we can identify individual birds. Unbanded birds are offspring of translocated birds, which will be a great sign going into summer. There is a learning component to the job: observing and recording bird habits – for example, trying to identify how a bird responds to a birdcall recording. We try to cover as much of the islands as possible.
And your research project involves…?
My research is to see if tīeke sourced from different islands (to help reduce issues around genetic bottlenecking) would breed with each other, or stick with birds from the same island. Data thus far suggests that they have stuck with birds from the same island. This might be due to a number of reasons, including the timing of the translocations and variance in bird calls.
When did you do the last monitoring on the islands?
The latest tīeke monitoring was carried out in mid-October, but has been ongoing since July. Logistics can be problematic; getting people to different areas by boat etc. More monitoring is coming up to see if there are any offspring. It is going to be a terrible place to spend the summer!
Interested in helping with bird survey?