Image: Shellie Evans | ©


The whitehead/pōpokotea has a series of clear tuneful calls that fill the forest with a pleasant cacophony of sound when they appear in flocks high in the canopy of the forest.


Whitehead/pōpokotea (Mohoua albicilla) are widespread and locally common in North Island beech forests, podocarp forest and old growth exotic plantation forests. However their range has shrunk since European settlement and they have disappeared from places such as Northland.

The birds are around 15cm long and have black beaks and eyes. Males have white heads and underparts, and pale brown upperparts, wings and tail. Females and juveniles are similar, but have brown on their nape and tops of their head.

In summer, chattering flocks of these ‘bush canaries’ can be heard as the juvenile birds do their teenage thing.

Sound recordings

Whitehead/pōpokotea flock (MP3, 707K)
00:44 – Flock feeding in a homestead garden and trees on Little Barrier Island.

Whitehead/pōpokotea territorial call (MP3, 3,549K)
03:46 – Adult male feeding under a canopy of beech trees in Whiteman's Valley, attracted by playback of calls, replying vigorously.

Our bird songs can be reused, even commercially, according to our copyright terms.


Unlike their South Island cousins the yellowhead or mohua, the whitehead is not a hole-nester which has probably helped it better survive the onslaught of introduced pests.

Forest clearance, once a threat, is luckily now a thing of the past.

Our work

Whitehead/pōpokotea are not threatened, so DOC doesn't have a specific work programme for them.

Of course the work that DOC does in plant and animal pest control increases the quality of whole ecosystems. This ongoing work contributes to the success of many common birds, as well as giving our rarer more susceptible species better chances of survival.

You can help

Emergency hotline

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
  • 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.
When out with your dog
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
  • If you come across wildlife put your dog on a lead and lead it away. 
  • Warn other dog owners at the location.
  • Notify DOC if you see wildlife being harassed by people or dogs.
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.
  • Keep your cat in at night.

Coastal wildlife and your dog flyer (PDF, 1,170K) 

Back to top