Visitors to the northern Coromandel could soon be hearing the clear chirping song of one of New Zealand’s protected birds, the North island robin, or toutouwai.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is working with local volunteer organisation Moehau Environment Group (MEG) and local iwi to release about 60 birds just before Easter. The birds are being transferred from Pureora Forest Park near Taupo.
The reintroduction of the birds is part of the ecological restoration on Moehau, recognised as one of the region’s most ecologically significant sites.
Lettecia Williams, Chairman of the Moehau Environment Group, said ‘ The reintroduction is a huge achievement and significant in the restoration of Moehau. It shows what can be done at a local level when people have a vision and give of themselves unconditionally, and in some case for years, to enable the whole community to gain’.
DOC Hauraki Area Manager, John Gaukrodger, praised the work of volunteers and DOC staff in the lead up to the release. ‘Volunteers from the Moehau Environment Group and DOC staff have worked for years implementing a first class predator control programme which has created a habitat suitable for our native species’.
Parts of the transfer and release are providing information for research by Waikato University students, says Project Manager Wendy Davies from DOC. ‘ Students are researching sound anchoring, where the birds are encouraged to remain in the area they are released by playing audio tapes of sounds recorded from the bush they came from. It’s a technique that’s been used with other birds like kokako, but it’s never been tried with North island robin before.’
Captured birds are screened for disease before being moved into the area to ensure only healthy birds are transferred.
The plan to restore Moehau includes implementing ongoing predator control programmes, replanting large areas, returning native birds, lizards and insects, conserving historic features, enhancing wetland areas and developing tracks and other visitor facilities.