Toutouwai - Robin's Return project

Toutouwai or North Island robin were returned to Moehau in the northern Coromandel Peninsula. This project involved the Department of Conservation, Moehau Environment Group (MEG), iwi and the local community.

The aim was to create a self-sustaining population of North Island robin and return the bird to part of their former home.

Release sites

About 100 birds were released in the Moehau area.

  • 61 of those birds were released on public conservation land on the eastern side of Mt Moehau at Stony Bay in 2009 and 2011.
  • 30 birds were released in 2009 on 300 ha of privately owned land just south of Stony Bay.

Read more about Moehau, the mountain.

Map of the project location.
Map of the project location

Successful breeding

The founding population bred sucessfully in 2010, and in 2011 further juvenile birds were sighted including some parented by the 2010 offspring.

DOC, MEG and volunteers continue to monitor populations.

Read the Return of the toutouwai success story

Where did they come from?

The birds came from Pureora Forest Park between Lake Taupo and Te Kuiti. Pureora is home to a large healthy population of North Island robin and the closest mainland location to Moehau.

The birds were checked and banded before being transported to Moehau. The birds travelled in specially modified cat boxes and were fed with mealworms and waxmoths.

Removing robin from a trap.
North Island robin being removed from
a clap trap

Catching the birds

This was a two stage process.

At the source area, the robins were trained to feed on mealworms to the background of a tapping sound at specific sites. The birds learnt to associate the tapping
sound with food and came to investigate when they heard the noise.

After 5-6 days of training, a clap trap was set up in the feeding area with a mealworm placed underneath the trap. Once the robin went in to feed, the trap was triggered and the robin was caught inside. It was immediately restrained and removed from the net to a dark cotton bag and taken to the banding station. Here it was weighed, measured and checked before both colour and metal bands were attached to its legs.

Housing, feeding and travelling

The robins were housed in individual, modified cat boxes and fed mealworms and waxmoths three times a day. They were kept in a secure, quiet, dry area with good ventilation.

Once ready for travel, their water dishes were removed and the waxmoths and mealworms put directly in the leaf litter to avoid the food tins rolling around the box on the windy Coromandel roads.

The birds travelled in their boxes in air-conditioned vehicles and were fed once on the journey in the Thames Pak n Save car park!

Media releases about the project


Find out more

Learn more

New Zealand Birds Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand birds


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