Rangatira has been described as one of the world's premier bird islands. Like Mangere, it is a Nature Reserve managed by the Department of Conservation. Purchased by the Crown in 1953, it was still being farmed- with up to 1400 Saxon merino sheep - until 1961, when the last sheep were removed. Virtually denuded during the farming period, it has since shown spectacular forest recovery, led by Chatham Islands ribbonwood, mahoe, akeake, flax, pohuehue, matipo and megaherbs. Gentler than Mangere, it lies off the south-east coast of Pitt Island. It is 219ha in area, rising to 224m above the western cliffs.
Rangatira Island showing regeneration
There is a busy fur seal colony, including a nursery area, at the southern end of Rangatira. The island is home to Chatham Island snipe, tui, tomtit, red-crowned parakeet and oystercatcher. It is the stronghold of the shore plover. Gulls, skuas and terns all nest and roost there.
Rangatira is a sanctuary for endangered invertebrates including the Rangatira spider, Chathams giant click beetle, coxella weevil, Pitt Island longhorn and giant stick insect. Skinks are abundant.
A black robin on Rangitira Island
However, it is for the black robin and the sea birds that the island is famous. It now accommodates the biggest population of the critically-endangered black robin. An intensive programme of cross-fostering and hand-rearing which began on Mangere Island proved so successful that new populations have been established on Rangatira Island and Pitt Island's Caravan Bush (the Ellen Elizabeth Preece Conservation Covenant).
The sight and sound of petrels and shearwaters at night on the island is one of the great phenomena of the natural world. There are literally millions of storm petrels, sooty shearwaters and broad-billed prions, offering a glimpse of the Chathams of the past. Chatham petrels breed only on this island, and risk being overcome by the sheer numbers of the other burrowing sea birds. There is an on-going programme to ensure their survival.