New Zealand Whitehead and Yellowhead Reintroductions


Yellowhead (Mohoua, Mohoua ochrocephala)

Centre Island (15 ha, Lake Te Anau, Fiordland). 6 birds from Eglington Valley, Fiordland, released October 1992. Contact Graeme Elliot.

Breaksea Island (170 ha, Fiordland). Reintroduction. 32 birds translocated from the Blue Mountains, October 1996. Breaksea is within the historical range of mohua, and Norway rats were found on Breaksea until they were eradicated in 1988. Mohua are therefore likely to have been on Breksea earlier, although this isn't documented. Contact Peter McClelland.

Ulva Island (269 ha, Paterson Inlet, eastern side of Stewart Island). Reintroduction. 27 birds of mixed age and sex were translocated from the Blue Mountains (West Otago), October 2001. Ulva Island consists of podocarp forest with coastal muttonbird scrub. There is one record of Mohua from Stewart Island in the late 1800s, suggesting that they would have originally occurred on Ulva as well. Norway rats were eradicated from Ulva in 1995, and robins and saddlebacks have also been reintroduced. While reinvasion by rats is an ongoing issue, there is a trap/bait network set up to control this. Ulva is an open sanctuary (free public access), so the reintroduction will enhance advocacy as well as assessing whether Mohua can survive in podocarp forest and hopefully providing an insurance population for the species. Birds were captured with mist nets (high and low sets), held in large transfer boxes, and fed meal worms for up to 2 nights prior to flying to ulva for hard release. The birds dispersed across the entire island, and even colonised small neighbouring islands with stunted scrub forest. Mohua are clearly capable of respectable flights across open water (300m +), and this should be considered in future translocations. Since release the mohua have produced at least 20 offspring, and the estimated population is now 44. Five birds had colonised an islet of less than 1 ha, where they successfully raised three offspring in a low forest comprised of tree fern and muttonbird scrub. These birds were relocated to Ulva Island prior to last breeding season. Contact Brent Beaven.

Chalky Island (511 ha, Chalky Inlet, Fiordland). 35 birds from Breaksea March 2002. Contact Andrew "Max" Smart.

Anchor Island (1140 ha, Dusky Sound, Fiordland). 24 birds from Breaksea October 2002. Contact Andrew "Max" Smart.

Whitehead (Popokatea, Mohoua albicilla)

Tiritiri Matangi Island (220 ha, Hauraki Gulf east of Auckland). 40 birds from Little Barrier Island released September 1989, and another 40 released May 1990. The translocation was part of the Tiritiri Matangi restoration programme, and was also used to study the effect of familiarity following translocation (Armstrong et al., 1994). In both translocations, 2 groups of familiar birds and 2 groups of unfamiliar birds were created and the 4 groups released in different places on Tiritiri Matangi. The groups largely disbanded following translocation, regardless of familiarity, and survival was similar for familiar and unfamiliar groups. Whereas birds on Little Barrier breed in groups with helpers, most birds bred in pairs without helpers following release on Tiritiri Matangi. Whiteheads are now extremely abundant in most bush patches on Tiritiri Matangi.

Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (225 ha mainland restoration area surrounded by a mammal-proof fence), central Wellington, North Island. Reintroduction. 30 whiteheads from Kapiti Island were released in August 2001, and another 33 were released in 2002 (30 from Kapiti in May and 3 from the Akatarawas in August). The reintroduction is part of the restoration program in the sanctuary following eradication of mammals inside the fence (see Nine pairs bred successfully in their first breeding season, all producing 2 clutches of 1-4 chicks each. In total at least 35 fledglings were produced (3.9 fledglings/pair). In the 2002/3 breeding season 18 pairs were located inside the Sanctuary, most comprising at least 1 bird bred in the Sanctuary in 2001/02, but 9 pairs remained unchanged from the previous season. 17 of the 19 pairs produced fledglings, with at least 59 fledglings produced (3.1 fledglings/pair). Most only had 1 clutch but 7 of the 9 established pairs and two new pairs had 2 clutches. One pair was located outside the sanctuary, in Birdwood Reserve and produced 2 fledglings. The second transfer into the sanctuary (now with a resident whitehead population) was not as successful as the first transfer -69% birds transferred in 2001 bred in the first year after release compared with 18% of the birds transferred in 2002 – dispersal away from the sanctuary by the newly released birds may have been high because there was already a resident whitehead population. A colour-banded bird was later identified in a Porirua Reserve c 17 km away. The habitat preferred by whiteheads in the Sanctuary appears to be mature mahoe forest with emergent trees such as pines. Whiteheads are now spread throughout most of the Sanctuary and have expanded into surrounding areas (Wrights hill and Polhill Gully). Contact Raewyn Empson, Karori Sanctuary.

Hunua Ranges (600 ha mainland island SE of Auckland, part of 17,000 ha continguous forest). Reintroduction. About 40 birds from Tiritiri Matangi Island were released in April 2003. The area is under intensive pest control. Whiteheads are thought to have been absent from the Hunuas since about 1880. Contact Tim Lovegrove, Auckland Regional.

Ark in the Park Waitakere Range (2350 ha of managed mainland centred around Cascade Park, Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, plus approx 600 ha of pest control on private property). The Ark in the Park is a community driven open sanctuary Kauri in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, close to Auckland City. It is a partnership between Auckland Council and Forest and Bird, supported by Te Kawerau a Maki. The project started in January 2003 and the aim is to allow the restoration of a functioning native ecosystem through intensive pest control and unlike many other mainland sanctuaries there is no predator proof fence. Instead, ongoing pest control (rodents, mustelids, possums and feral cats) by volunteers and staff keeps predator numbers low enough to allow survival and breeding of re-introduced as well as original native birds and other biodiversity. 55 whitehead were translocated from Tiritiri Matangi Island to the Ark in the Park Open Sanctuary in August 2004. A supplementary transfer of 50 birds, also from Tiritiri Matangi Island, occurred in May 2008. They are relatively inconspicuous canopy dwellers and harder to observe, but their presence is regularly confirmed – be it in relatively low density due to their dispersal over large areas of the Waitakere Ranges outside the Ark itself. Breeding was observed in the first season and non-banded birds are regularly encountered. A pair was known to breed at a nearby restoration project at Karekare, and 4 whiteheads were observed in 2006 in the Pararaha Valley in Karekare (ca. 12 km from the core of the Ark area). A flock of whiteheads were observed along Pukemateo track in December 2009 and more recently a flock of 10-15 whiteheads were observed in March 2011.

Sightings are infrequent but consistent with some factors being the large areas involved, the high canopy, and their preference for kanuka/manuka forest that is patchily distributed. As numbers increase, these birds should hopefully become more conspicuous. Recent discussions with the Department of Conservation (DOC) resulted in its support for the development of a strategic long term approach (5 to 10 years of regular translocations) to contribute to the re-introduction of this species to Ark in the Park and the Waitakere Ranges. The first translocation in this context took place in May 2011, releasing 50 birds. Contact: Maj De Poorter,

Tawharanui Open Sanctuary (588-ha predator fenced peninsula 90 km N of Auckland). Reintroduction.On 31 March 2007, 45 whiteheads, comprising 22 males (17 ads, 5 juvs) and 23 females (19 ads, 4 juvs), captured on Tiritiri Matangi, were released in the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary. The 550 ha Open Sanctuary is protected by a pest-proof fence and key mammalian predators such as rats, mustelids, cats and possums have been removed. The whitehead population on Tiritiri is very large and the low forest and plantings make catching easy, so the island is a good source of whiteheads for translocations. A pre-transfer sample of 20 was screened for diseases two weeks before the translocation. No blood parasites were found and tests were negative forSalmonella, YersiniaandCoccidia.Two birds had Hipposboscid flies. No blood parasites were detected in a sample of 20/45 of the transfer birds and tests were negative forSalmonellaandYersiniain all 45 birds.Coccidiaoocysts were found in 10/43 transfer birds.There wereHipposboscid flies on four birds. No external lesions or injuries were seen.The birds handled captivity in the aviary on Tiritiri very well and they were easy to feed. During the translocation, some birds did not settle while being held overnight before release at Tawharanui, and four had to be removed from one transfer box and held individually in cotton bags the rest of the night. Despite this, there was no mortality during the translocation. A split release design was used with sound anchoring at one of the release sites. The birds were caught in two locations about 1 km apart on Tiritiri and the two release sites at Tawharanui were similarly spaced. The whiteheads were individually colour-banded as well as having a separate cohort colour for each release site. Twenty-three birds were released near four sound anchoring speakers, which played whitehead songs and calls for 14 days after release, while the remaining 22 birds had no sound anchors at their release site. There was no evidence that the birds were attracted to the sound anchors and birds from the two release sites intermixed freely after release. Since release the birds have dispersed widely through several of the major forest patches inside the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary, and 26/45 birds have been resighted. By October, a number of males were singing on territories, and by the end of January 2008, at least four nests had successfully fledged young. During 2008, both founding and locally-bred whiteheads were regularly observed in various places in the Open Sanctuary, and monitoring suggests that they have become established in most of the larger forest patches at Tawharanui.The first young of the 2008-09 season were recorded in early December. Contact Tim Lovegrove, Auckland Regional.