Rock wren conservation
Rock wren are our only true alpine bird. It is unknown how they survive the harsh climate above the tree line all year round, but it is likely they continue to forage on rocky bluffs where snow has not collected and amongst large boulder fields. Some have suggested they may have a period of semi-hibernation.
Did you know?
A rock wren nest can be as warm as 30 degrees, when outside it is below freezing!
Climate change and weather events
Climate change is anticipated to affect rock wren in the future. As the temperature warms, their alpine environment becomes more suitable for potential predators, such as rats.
Extreme snow fall events have also caused nest failures in rock wren.
Stoats are main predators
Rock wren are poor fliers. They nest on the ground and are easy targets for introduced predators.
Until recently, it was assumed rock wren were relatively safe from predators in their alpine habitat. However, rock wren are now absent or very rarely seen in many areas where they were once commonly found.
Researchers using nest-cameras have identified stoats as the main predator of rock wrens.
Predator control and monitoring
We have been monitoring rock wren nesting success at several alpine locations throughout the South Island within Fiordland, South Westland and Kahurangi National Parks.
In areas where there is predator control, around 85% of nests are successful in fledging young. In areas where there is no predator control, nesting success is 0 – 30% and populations are at risk of extinction.
We are currently developing methods of predator control targeted specifically to protect rock wren. Between 2008 and 2011, 41 rock wren were transferred from the Murchison Mountains, Fiordland to Secretary Island, a largely predator free island with sub-alpine habitat in Fiordland. Rock wren are now breeding well on Secretary Island.
You can help
- Help the New Zealand Alpine Club, Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust and Friends of the Cobb, who are carrying out predator control in accessible rock wren habitats.
- Report sightings of rock wren to your local DOC office or to iNaturalist NZ – Mātaki Taiao.
Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately if you see anyone catching, harming or killing native wildlife.
Help protect our native birds
When visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes
- Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
- Check for pests when visiting pest-free islands.
- Leave nesting birds alone.
- Use available access ways to get to the beach.
- Avoid leaving old fishing lines on beaches or in the sea.
- Follow the water care code and local navigation bylaws.
- Don't drive on riverbeds, or keep to formed tracks if you have to.
Other ways to help
- Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
- Volunteer to control predators and restore bird habitats.
- Set predator traps on your property.
- Put a bell on your cat's collar and feed it well.