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Forest birds hop back to Mana Island

Date:  20 July 2010

The sounds of the forest can again be heard on Mana Island thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers from the Friends of Mana Island (FOMI).

38 whiteheads (popokatea) and 43 bellbirds (korimako) were successfully transferred from Kapiti Island to Mana Island over the weekend, announced Department of Conservation (DOC) Kapiti/Poneke Area manager Rob Stone and FOMI president Colin Ryder.

Mr Ryder said FOMI raised the funding for the transfer through a public appeal last year and from donations from its members.

Mana Island as seen from the mainland. Photo: Jeremy Rolfe.
Mana Island

“It’s gratifying that the local community got behind this important project,” Mr Ryder said.  

“It’s yet another example of how the partnership between DOC and the public can result in positive outcomes for Mana Island and, in the long term, for the adjoining mainland by creating a series of ecological ‘stepping stones’ along the coast.”

Mr Stone applauded FOMI’s efforts in achieving this important milestone in the plan to restore self-sustaining ecosystems to the island, similar to those likely to have existed before human contact. Many years of restoration planting had created an environment in which these forest birds could thrive.

“When you look back only a couple of decades most of the island was bare grass. The transformation is incredible”

The transfer follows many months of planning and a weeks’ effort on Kapiti Island by the team of FOMI volunteers and DOC staff who caught the birds, Mr Stone said. 

“The intention is to establish a breeding population of birds that may eventually re-colonise other parts of the Wellington region. Bellbirds will also be crucial to the establishment of self-sustaining native forest on the island as they are important pollinators and seed dispersers for many plant species.”

Bellbird feeding on flax flowers. Photo: Richard Gill.
Bellbird feeding on flax flowers

The public are being asked to contribute to this important project by reporting sightings of the birds by contacting the DOC Kapiti Area office on +64 4 296 1112.

Mana Island DOC staff member, Sue Caldwell said all the released birds of both species will have fluoro pink bands on the left leg making them quite distinctive. “It may not be the most fashionable of colours but it makes them easier to spot!”

Mr Stone and Mr Ryder said visitors may also be lucky enough to see other rare and threatened bird species on the island, including New Zealand shore plover (tuturuatu), yellow crowned parakeets (kakariki) and brown teal (pateke).

“We’re confident that the addition of two of New Zealand’s most charming and friendly birds to Mana Island’s suite of species will add to this unique experience,” Mr Ryder said.

“The next step for FOMI will be to increase the diversity of native plants on the island, to help sustain the ever increasing number of native animals found there.”

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