Introduction

Twenty two yellowhead/mohua were successfully moved from the Catlins Conservation Area in Otago to Resolution Island in Fiordland this week. The transfer is part of an exciting project to create a super site for mohua.

Date:  08 November 2013

Twenty two mohua (or yellowhead), were successfully moved from the Catlins Conservation Area in Otago to Resolution Island in Fiordland this week.

The transfer is part of an exciting project to create a super site for mohua on the 20,000 ha Resolution Island in Dusky Sound and follows a successful transfer of 60 mohua to the island, from Landsborough Valley in October 2011. This island will provide habitat for a large, genetically robust population, which will help further secure the species.

Mohua are one of our rarest songbirds and have recently been voted by New Zealanders as bird of the year, in the Forest & Bird's annual poll.

DOC ranger Hannah Edmonds releases a mohua. Photo: Barry Harcourt.
DOC ranger Hannah Edmonds releases a mohua onto Resolution Island this week 

Supported by the Mohua Charitable Trust, this translocation supports the Trust's wider aim, to restore mohua and other native bird populations back to the numbers once found in New Zealand's native forests. Trustee Nigel Babbage says "The project to reintroduce mohua to Resolution Island is exciting and special. The island has potential to support the largest population of mohua in New Zealand for generations and be a source to reintroduce mohua to other sites in the future".

The transfer has been undertaken in partnership with Otago and Southland iwi, Te Runanga o Awarua, and Te Runanga o Oraka Aparima, who share a strong relationship with the Catlins Conservation Area. The Catlins Forest holds one of the largest remaining populations of mohua in New Zealand. Predator control is ongoing at this site and the mohua population, which is estimated to be in the low thousands, will easily support a transfer of 22 individuals.

Resolution Island is the largest island in Fiordland. The island's potential as a nature reserve was first recognised by Richard Henry in the 1800s when he transferred over 500 native birds there to save them being eaten by the rats and stoats that were devastating the mainland's wildlife. Unfortunately by 1900, stoats had invaded the island and destroyed Richard Henry's conservation dreams.

In 2008, the Department of Conservation (DOC) picked up Richard Henry's mantle and began an ambitious trapping project to remove stoats from the island. There are very few stoats remaining on Resolution Island and no signs of recent breeding, but monitoring and trapping for stoats will be ongoing to ensure any stoats or rats arriving on the island are caught.

Mohua were present on Resolution Island during Richard Henry's time, but had become locally extinct. They are the first native species to be reintroduced to the island since Richard Henry's tragedy over 120 years ago.

The 22 mohua were caught in the Catlins Forest in one day by a catching team of 20 people, including DOC staff, volunteers, Te Runanga o Awarua from Otago and members of the Mohua Charitable Trust. No mohua were taken from areas of high public use in the Catlins Forest. The birds were flown by helicopter to Resolution Island the same day, where they were blessed by Te Runanga o Awarua, welcomed by local iwi, Te Runanga o Oraka Aparima and released.

Background information

  • Mohua are a small brightly coloured songbird, distinctive by their bright yellow head and melodic calls.
  • Mohua were once widespread throughout the beech forests of the South Island forming large flocks but are now rated nationally vulnerable and only survive in small pockets of beech forest.
  • In the 1980s it was recognised that mohua had disappeared from 75% of their former range and that declines were continuing.
  • Mohua are particularly vulnerable to predation by stoats and rats in years of high predator numbers. Recent management has shown that mohua populations can be maintained in mainland sites, such as the Catlins Forest, using appropriate predator control. However, a longer term solution for improving the security of mohua has proven to be translocations to predator-free islands where populations flourish in the absence of predators.
  • In October 2011 60 mohua were transferred to Resolution Island from the Landsborough Valley in South Westland making the start to establishing a robust population on the island.
  • Visit the Mohua website to learn more about mohua, the work of the Mohua Charitable Trust and to donate to this worthy cause.
  • Te Runanga o Awarua and Te Runanga o Oraka Aparima are partners in the translocation, supporting the work through their involvement in the translocation and at the release on Resolution Island.

Related link

Yellowhead/mohua

Contact

Lindsay Wilson
DOC Conservation Services Manager - Biodiversity
Fiordland District
Phone: 021 667 672
Email: lpwilson@doc.govt.nz

Ros Cole
DOC Acting Senior Ranger Services - Biodiversity
Murihiku District
Phone: +64 3 3 211 2400
Email: rcole@doc.govt.nz

Back to top