NorthIslandSaddleback(Tieke, Philesturnusrufusater)

Saddleback reintroductions

North Island saddlebacks (photo C.R.Veitch) were found only on Hen Island until 1964. Saddlebacks were released on Little Barrier and Kapiti Islands in 1925 but disappeared, probably due to cats (both islands) and Norway rats (Kapiti). Saddlebacks also failed to establish on Lady Alice Island following release in 1950. This may have just been due to chance (only 6 birds were released, of unknown sexes) since saddlebacks were successfully established there later. From 1964-89, saddlebacks were successfully established on Whatupuke, Red Mercury, Cuvier, Lady Alice, Stanley, Little Barrier, and Tiritiri Matangi, but failed to establish on Fanal (two attempts, in 1968 and 1985) and Motukawanui (Lovegrove 1996). Cats had been eradicated from Cuvier, Little Barrier and Kapiti, and possums had also been eradicated from Kapiti. However, Norway rats remained on Kapiti. The saddleback population there slowly declined but was was maintained by multiple releases from 1981-89. The population is probably now self-sustaining following eradication of rats from Kapiti in 1996. Saddlebacks were only recorded historically on Little Barrier and Cuvier, but were probably found on most of the other islands. There were no significant predators on islands other thatn Little Barrier, Cuvier and Kapiti. However, vegetation had been cleared or otherwise modified on all islands following Maori colonisation, possibly causing location extinction of saddlebacks, and the vegetation had subsequently regenerated to varying degrees. Translocations in the 1990s include:

Mokoia Island (135 ha, in Lake Rotorua, North Island). Reintroduction. 36 birds translocated from Tiritiri Matangi, April 1992. Mokoia was cleared for agriculture but the forest has now been naturally regenerating for 40-50 years. Norway rats and goats were eradicated in 1989. Saddlebacks are presumed to have inhabitated Mokoia (in Lake Rotorua) historically, and the reintroduction was part of the Mokoia Island restoration programme. This is the only inland population of saddlebacks. Initial research focused on the effect of famililiarity among translocated birds (Armstrong & Craig 1995). Two groups were released in different patches: a familiar group captured from one bush patch on Tiri, and an unfamiliar group made up of birds from all over Tiri. There was no indication that familiarity affected dispersal, survival, behavioural interactions or breeding. Subsequent research focused on population growth and dynamics. The population had reached about 90 pairs by November 1997, when research stopped. The population shows clear density dependence in both survival and reproduction, and a population model developed by Davidson (1999) predicts the population to level off at about 100 pairs. A brodifacoum poison drop in September 1996 (an unsuccessful attempt to eradicate mice) is estimated to have killed 45% of the population, but this is predicted to have had little impact on the population trajectory (Davidson & Armstrong 2002). Contact Doug Armstrong.

Moturoa Island (Bay of Islands). Released August 1997. Contact Paul Asquith.

Moutohora (Whale) Island (143 ha, 6 km off Whakatane, Bay of Plenty, North Island). Presumed Reintroduction. 40 birds from Repanga (Cuvier) Island released in March 1999. The founder group consisted of 9 adult males, 11 females, 2 immature females, 11 juvenile males, and 7 juvenile females. Rabbits and Norway rats were eradicated from Mouthohora in the early 1990s. Cats and goats were eradicated earlier. There have already been reintroductions of red-crowned parakeets in 1986, tuatara in 1996, and nine threatened coastal plants in 1999. A Conservation Management Plan has been written for the islands, and is due to be published soon. The management and restoration of Moutohora is taking place with the full involvement of Ngati Awa. Contact Keith Owen (or see Owen & Blick 2000) for information on the translocation, or Dianne Brunton for information on subsequent monitoring.

Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (225 ha mainland restoration area surrounded by a mammal-proof fence), central Wellington, North Island. Reintroduction. 39 birds (20 males and 19 females) were translocated from Tiritiri Matangi Island in June 2002. The reintroduction is part of the restoration program in the sanctuary following eradication of mammals inside the fence (see 49% birds transferred survived in the sanctuary for a year, compared with 48% on Cuvier and 40% on Little Barrier (Lovegrove 1996), despite a higher risk of dispersal than transfers to offshore islands. 10 pairs established territories inside the sanctuary in their first year and produced at least 30 fledglings. Nesting success varied according to nest location: most nests were built in flax bushes and 75% of chicks fledged successfully. Nests built on the ground or in a bank were least successful (25% of chicks fledged) whereas 100% chicks fledged from nests built in boxes or hollow trees. Productivity has fluctuated each year along with the number of breeding pairs: 3.0 fledglings per pair in 2002/3 (10 pairs), 4.2 in 2003/4 (14 pairs), 3.6 in 2004/5 (9 pairs) and 3.9 in 2005/6 (19 pairs). Active monitoring of the population ceased in 2006. Contact Raewyn Empson.

Boundary Stream Mainland Island (ca. 800 ha managed mainland area, Hawkes Bay, near east coast of North Island). Reintroduction. 37 birds were released in September 2004. This is the first attempt to reintroduce saddlebacks to an unfenced area, and one of the first attempts to reintroduce any “island marooned” species back to the mainland. Boundary Stream consists of 800 ha of intensively managed forest that now has extremely low levels of rats, possums and stoats. The birds were captured on Cuvier Island and held at Auckland Zoo for 30 days due to disease regulations. Two birds subsequently died in transit and one was too sick to be released, leaving 37 birds (23 female, 14 male) for release. 10 had tail-mounted transmitters attached, and 4 of these were found dead after a period of extremely cold southerlies two weeks after release (predation did not appear to have caused any of these mortalities). There were four known pairs in mid October, but all four females appeared to have disappeared by the end of 2004. Contact Wendy Sullivan.

Bushy Park Reserve (87 ha mainland forest block near Wanganui). Saddlebacks were reintroduced to Bushy Park Reserve in May-June 2006. The reintroduction is part of the restoration programme for Bushy Park, which was enclosed by a predator-proof fence in May 2005 and mammalian predators subsequently eradicated. The reserve has 87 ha of relatively pristine pukatea-tawa-podocarp-mixed broadleaf forest. 40 birds were sourced from Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua. As part of Joanne Thorne’s MSc project, the plan for the release was to keep 10 birds under quarantine for two weeks and treat with Baycox (for coccidiosis) and Sporonox (for aspergillosis), keep 10 birds under quarantine with no treatment, release 10 birds immediately with treatment, and release 10 birds immediately with no treatment. The aim of this experiment was to assess the impact of the quarantine and treatment procedures now being routinely enforced in reintroductions. However, the occurrence ofPlasmodium(malaria) in four of the initial 20 birds meant that we were required to quarantine and treat all birds, and the initial birds were held more than one month before release. Two birds subsequently died in the holding aviary, and many others disappeared shortly after release, leaving a population of about 20 birds at the start of the breeding season in September. This post-release survival is similar to that at Boundary Stream, where birds were held for 30 days, but much lower than found in other saddleback reintroductions. Contact Joanne Thorne, Massey University or Doug Armstrong.

Motuihe Island (179 ha, Hauraki Gulf, Auckland). Twenty North Island saddleback were translocated from Tiritiri Matangi to Motuihe Island in August 2005. Birds were captured using mist nets and lure calls, and were held for up to 4 days in an aviary on Tiritiri Matangi where they were provided with a variety of food including live invertebrates, fruit and natural forage, before transportation by boat to Motuihe. An August 2006 survey showed a minimum of 14 of the original translocated birds, and 11 juveniles from the 2005/2006 breeding season are present on the island. The minimum survival of translocated saddleback on Motuihe (70%) in the year following release was higher than that on Cuvier (41%), Stanley (46%) and Little Barrier (44%) Islands, and only slightly lower than that on Tiritiri Matangi (79%) and Mokoia (81%). It is unknown if saddleback were historically present on Motuihe but the introduction is consistent with the goals of the Motuihe Restoration Project. Contact Kevin Parker.

SouthIslandSaddleback(Tieke, Philesturnuscaranculatus)

South Island Saddebacks were only found on Big South Cape (Taukehepa) Island until 1964. The first translocations were in response to an irruption of ship rats (Rattus rattus) on Big South Cape that year. Saddlebacks subsequently (and several other species) subsequently became extinct on Big South Cape, so the race was saved by translocation to Big and Kaimohu Islands (Merton 1965, 1975). Saddlebacks were subsequently translocated to several other islands from 1969-1986. Translocations seem to have resulted in established populations on Big, Kaimohu, North, Womens, Kundy, Betsy, Motunui, and Jacky Lee, and Putauhinu islands, whereas populations disappeared on Maud and Inner Chetwode Islands (Lovegrove 1996, updated by Peter McClelland). The Maud extinction may have been due to a stoat invasion in 1982 (stoats were subsequently eradicated). The causes of extinction is unclear for Inner Chetwode. This island has kiore and weka, but saddlebacks on other islands have thrived in the presence of these predators. The main rationale for the translocations has been to increase the range of South Island saddlebacks in case of disaster, and it’s unclear which islands they inhabited historically. Recent translocations have also aimed to establish South Island saddlebacks on representative islands over its historic range, and to establish them on islands with public access. Translocations in the 1990s include:

Breaksea Island (170 ha, Fiordland). Reintroduction. 60 birds from Big Island and Kundy Island were released in March 1992. Reintroduction. Breaksea Island had Norway rats eradicated in 1988. Contact Peter McClelland.

Motuara Island (59 ha, Marlborough Sounds, off NE South Island). Reintroduction. 25 birds from Jackie Lee Island and North Island released March 1994. Contact Bill Cash orJohanna Pierre. See Pierre (1994) or Pierre (1999).

Pohowaitai Island (39 ha, off SW Stewart Island). Conservation Introduction. 30 birds from Kundy Island released, March 1999. Saddlebacks were not previously found on Pohowaitai, and the rationale was to increase the distribution of a threatened species. Contact Peter McClelland.

Ulva Island (269 ha, Paterson Inlet, Stewart Island). Reintroduction. 30 birds from Big Island released April 2000. Norway rats were eradicated from Ulva in 1996. There has been subsequent sightings of rats on or around the island, and it is accepted that there are likely to be rats arriving occasionally. The approach of the Ulva Island Management plan is to maintain lines of traps and bait stations on the island, plus wharfs that boats are likely to be arriving from, that will hopefully prevent the rats from breeding and expanding. Because saddlebacks are extremely sensitive to rats, they are regarded to some extent as a “sentinel species” that will indicate whether the low-level presence of rats will be a problem for any rare species reintroduced to the island. All saddleback territories and nests have been located adjacent to the coastline near or in coastal scrub dominated bySenecio reinoldi,Dracophyllum longifoliumandMetrosideros umbellata.Nest success has been relatively high (ca. 73%) but some nests have failed due to predation. The University of Otago has monitored the saddleback for the last two breeding seasons. At the end of the 2003/2004 breeding season, the population comprised 84 adults (including 17 of the founder birds) and 32 juveniles. Contact Brent Beaven.

South Passage Island (176 ha, Chalky Inlet, Fiordland National Park). Reintroduction. 35 birds from Breaksea Island (Fiordland National Park) released 3 October 2001. Similar numbers of males and females were taken, based on measurements. Birds were caught in mist nets, held in a temporary aviary for up to 5 days, and transported by helicopter. Passage Island is has rata-kamahi forest. Saddlebacks probably occurred on the island historically, and were recorded from the adjacent mainland in the 19th century. The reintroduction was part of the recovery programme for South Island saddlebacks, and part of the island’s restoration programme. Stoats were eradicated in 1999, making the reintroduction possible. The island will be monitored for stoats, and stoats are being controlled on adjacent Great Island. Contact Allan Munn.

Anchor Island (1140 ha, Dusky Sound, Fiordland). 31 birds from Breaksea island, October 2002, plus additional 24 birds from Breaksea, April 2004. Contact Andrew“Max” Smart.

Bauza Island (400 ha, Doubtful Island, Fiordland). 28 birds from Breaksea Island, March 2003. Contact Andrew “Max” Smart.

Erin Island (67 ha Lake Te Anau, Fiordland). Reintroduction. 18 birds from Breaksea Island were released September 2003, plus additional 20 birds from Breaksea Island released April 2004. This reintroduction is significant because it was: i) the first release of saddleback back into primarily beech forest habitat, where they have been absent for approximately 100 years, and ii) onto an island that was within swimming distance to stoats, a major (introduced) predator of saddlebacks and of robins. The reintroduction has two objectives: i) to assess the value of predator-controlled inshore islands for translocation of threatened species that normally vulnerable to introduced mammalian predators and ii) to determine the short and long term effects of inbreeding in small island populations. Erin Island had been cleared of stoats since November 2001, but a juvenile stoat was trapped there in July 2003. Stoat control was intensified on the island and the adjacent mainland just before the release took place. Research on effects on inbreeding will assess nesting success and survival in relation to inbreeding, and will involve a sister study on Ulva Island. Contact Ian Jamieson.

Long Island (142 ha scenic reserve, Marlborough Sounds). 45 birds translocated from Motuara Island in August/September 2005. The population appears to be increasing although not yet common. Contact Bill Cash.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary (307 ha predator-fenced mainland site 20 km north of Dunedin).  40 South Island tieke (21 females and 19 males) were translocated from Ulva Island to Orokonui in April 2009. Exotic mammals were eradicated from the sanctuary in July 2007. 58% of the released birds were resighted from two days to two weeks after the release, and a total of 79% were resighted inside the fence after seven months.  12 birds (32%) were known to be alive inside the fenced area at the start of the breeding season (Sept. 2009), but only 9 birds regularly observed during the breeding season (including 4 pairs) and 7 were confirmed alive at the end of the breeding season. The two that disappeared were a pair whose territory extended outside the fence.  Three breeding pairs produced 7 fledglings (2.3 per pair).  By the start of the second breeding season (Sept. 2010), 3 adults and 5 fledglings had disappeared, leaving 2 breeding pairs and two single yearlings. During this time detection of rats inside the fenced reserve has been negligible. The University of Otago plans to continue to monitor the colour marked birds and a follow-up release is currently under consideration.  Contact Ian Jamieson orChris Baillie.

Big Island to Taukihpea / Big South Cape Island. In March 2011, 41  Saddleback (13 Adults, 23 Juveniles, 5 Sub Adults) were caught (39 in mist nets and 2 by hand on roosts) on Big Island.  2 birds – a juvenile and a subadult, died – one while being transferred from the net site to the aviary and the other in the aviary during a strong wind storm. Another bird was already banded indicating it was an old bird so was released at the capture site. The remaining birds were held for up to 5 days in a tent aviary prior to being transferred by helicopter to the release site on Taukihepa  Both islands are in the southern titi or muttonbird islands off the SW coast of Stewart Island, New Zealand While the birds were held they were fed a variety of artificial foods including non native fruit, meals worms and “saddleback buns” a fruit bun, as well as honey water. This transfer was significant in that it returned the species to what had been their sole remaining natural habitat prior to the invasion of rats to Taukihpea in the 1960’s. At that time 21 birds had been transferred to Big Island to save the species (15 had also gone to a smaller island – Kaimohu) It was from this stock that birds have been transferred to nearly 20 different islands safeguarding the species form extinction. Monitoring of the released birds will be undertaken by the muttonbirders (traditional owners) who visit the islands seasonally each year. Contact Peter McClelland.

Kundy Island to Mokonui / Big Moggy Island. In March 2011 38 Saddleback (9 juveniles, 29 adults) were caught using mist nets on Kundy Island.  The birds were held for up to 5 days in a tent aviary prior to being transferred by helicopter to the release site on Mokonui  Both islands are in the southern titi or muttonbird islands off the SW coast of Stewart Island, New Zealand While the birds were held they were fed a variety of artificial foods including non native fruit, meals worms and “saddleback buns” a fruit bun, as well as honey water. The Kundy population had been established using a transfer of birds from Big and Kaimohu Islands which themselves had been the recipients of the first transfers from Taukihepa/ Big Couth Cape Island carried out to save the 3 species when rats invaded that island. Monitoring of the released birds will be undertaken by the muttonbirders (traditional owners) who visit the islands seasonally each year. Contact Peter McClelland.Kundy Island to Taukihepa / Big South Cape Island and Mokoiti (Little Moggy). In March 2012 42 Saddleback (13 Adults, 23 Juveniles, 5 Sub Adults) were caught (41 in mist nets and 1 by hand on the roost) on Kundy Island. The birds were held for up to 3 days in a tent aviary prior to being transferred by helicopter to the release site on Taukihepa (Puwai Bay at the south end of the island)and Mokoiti (Little Moggy). 1 bird was observed behaving strangely (lying on the ground and occasionally flapping its wings and was removed from the aviary, one bird escaped during the transfer leaving 40 birds for the transfer, 30 to Taukihepa and 10 to Mokoiti. While the birds were held they were primarily fed a variety of non native fruit- apples, oranges, plums and grapes.All three islands are in the southern titi or muttonbird islands off the SW coast of Stewart Island, New Zealand. The Kundy population had been established using a transfer of birds from Big and Kaimohu Islands which themselves had been the recipients of the first transfers from Taukihepa carried out to save the species when rats invaded that island.This transfer to Taukihepa was a follow up to an initial release of 38 birds in March 2011 from Big Island and was to try and maximise the chances of a rapid colonisation of this much larger 900ha island. Opportunistic monitoring of the initial release had shown that the birds had spread from the release site all over the island and that there had been at least 1 successful breeding. Opportunistic monitoring of the establishment of this population will be continued by the muttonbirders (traditional owners) who visit the islands seasonally each year. Contact Peter McClelland.

Pohowaitai Island to Solomon Island/ Rerewhakaupoko. In March 2012 8 Saddleback (4 adults and 4 juveniles) were caught using mist nets on Pohowaitai Island.  The birds were held for up to 3 hours in transfer boxes with apple/ plums for sustenance prior to being transferred by helicopter to the release site on Solomon/ Rerewhakaupoko Island.

Both islands are in the southern titi or muttonbird islands off the SW coast of Stewart Island. The species had been present on Solomon Island but was extirpated when rats, which have since been eradicated, invaded the island in the 1960s. The Pohowaitai population had been established using a transfer of birds from Kundy Island in 1999.

Monitoring of the released birds will be undertaken by the muttonbirders traditional owners) who visit the islands seasonally each year. Contact Peter McClelland.

Update The feedback from the birders on Big Moggy /Mokonui is that the birds transferred there last year form Kundy have done well with a lot of breeding having occurred.

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