New Zealand has been isolated since the time of the dinosaurs. Its wildlife evolved uniquely with no native land mammals, except for bats, so New Zealand became the land of the birds! Most of New Zealand’s species are found nowhere else on the planet. However, when humans arrived, we brought with us invasive pest mammals including rats, mice, possums, and stoats. These introduced predator species have had a devastating impact on Aotearoa’s native wildlife.
In 2009, Project Island Song removed all invasive pest mammals from these island sanctuaries, and now native birdsong is returning to the Bay of Islands – note by note.
When you visit Otehei Bay, step inside the Conservation Centre to gain an insight into Project Island Song’s work. Here you will learn how they protect and restore the unique natural habitat and wildlife on these beautiful islands, and will understand why Explore Group is so proud to support Project Island Song.
There are 5 native rare bird species that have been reintroduced by Project island Song since 2009:
- Kākāriki / Red Crowned Parakeet
A bright chattering bird that has been extinct on the Mainland of Northland for several decades. You may spot them by noticing how their flight seems erratic when they fly across open spaces. They are medium in size with beautiful green mixed with crimson red colouring.
- Toutouwai / North Island Robin
When you see one – ever so comfortable on the ground and fitting lightly in the underbrush – you will understand why they are no match for cats! These birds are slightly larger than a house sparrow, are grey in colour and love coming close to people! Listen out for them between August and December as that is when the male Robins are their most vocal, especially in the morning.
- Tīeke / Northland Saddleback
Member of the ancient Callaeidae family that are only found in NZ (all other Calaeidae species are now extinct or endangered). They almost became extinct with just 400 birds left on one island. Now thanks mainly to reintroduction's onto predator free islands, their numbers are upwards of 7000. These beautiful birds are mostly black apart from some chestnut areas, and have a orange/red wattle. To identify their bird song, listen out for something that sounds like "cheet, te-te-te-te" or "ti-e-ke-ke-ke-ke".
- Pōpokotea / Whitehead
Extinct in the Northland region for over 100 years, the Pōpokotea / Whitehead is thriving on the islands. These small songbirds have a compact body, short tail and long legs and are often heard before they are seen. They are mostly brown with a white/grey head - giving them their name. They are very chatty, but they are mainly identified by a characteristic "viu viu viu zir zir zir zir" twitter.
- Pāteke / Brown Teal
There are only 2,500 of this shy endemic waterfowl alive, at the most, and they New Zealand's rarest waterfowl. Both sexes of Brown Teal are a dark brown, and have differing features depending on the gender. Males are the more aesthetic, whereas females and juveniles are a uniformly dull but dark mottled brown. Their calls differ depending on their sex as well, male calls are soft, usually described as trills or piping. The female has a rasping growl and a high-pitched and fast quack.
And thanks to the work being done by Project island Song, there are more releases of endangered species to predator free islands to come!
Next time you’re out on one of the islands, make sure you stop, look and listen on the tracks in the forest and see if you can find some these rare gems thanks to the conservation work being done!