News | 14 October 2021
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Birds of a feather flock together for 2021 Bird of the Year

We’re so egg-cited as the Te Manu Rongonui o Te Tau/Bird of The Year 2021 starts next week and we’re proud as a peacock to be supporting the titipounamu (rifleman) this year.

Titipounamu on hand: credit Melissa Boardman
Credit Melissa Boardman

Forest & Bird's Bird of the Year competition started in 2005 to showcase the plight of New Zealand’s native birds and is now the tweet of the town every year.

In this hotly contested event, Wellington City Council is joining forces with Zealandia to support the smallest but mightiest bird of the bunch – the titipounamu.

Not only have the titipounamu been spotted for the first time in the wild in Wellington in over 100 years, but they are also building nests and have just become proud parents outside the safety of Zealandia’s fence.

Mayor Andy Foster says having our smallest bird nesting outside Zealandia’s protective fence is another illustration of Wellington’s remarkable and ongoing environmental restoration journey.

“Every day we see evidence of recovering native birdlife. That’s the result of large-scale acquisition and protection of land, active and natural rejuvenation, and extensive predator control.

“It’s the result of thirty years of work by Council and tens of thousands of Wellingtonians. These special little proud parents are another tribute to this great on-going teamwork.

“We have already seen massive increases in tui, kākā, kererū and kākāriki in the Capital, and now we have the titipounamu making its presence felt – so let’s make them top of the pecking order this year!”

Council’s Biosecurity Specialist, Henk Louw agrees the sighting of titipounamu is a team effort and this is a great reward for all that mahi.

“Volunteers are protecting Wellington’s native manu by trapping predators like rats in Council reserves and their own backyards. Two rats have been trapped near the titipounamu nesting site since we have been monitoring it. Furthermore, ongoing restoration efforts through community planting is providing suitable forest habitat for titipounamu to enjoy.

“The best protection for native wildlife is trapping pests and planting native trees especially in backyards. This will reduce large gaps in tree cover and create corridors for these birds to move throughout the city. It’s also important to manage your pets to minimise any risk to native wildlife.”

Titipounamu were introduced to Wellington ecosanctuary, Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne, from Wainuiomata Mainland Island in 2019. Breeding has been successful inside the safety of the predator-free sanctuary and until now there has been no successful breeding outside the fence in Wellington City.

“These birds spreading beyond the fence shows how the restoration efforts of our community are increasing the impact that Zealandia has on our capital city. It is wonderful to see Wellingtonians getting behind these birds and doing what they can to make it a safer place for them to live.

“Bird of the Year gives us the opportunity to share their story and for locals to celebrate their nature-rich Capital and feathered residents they live in it with,” says Zealandia Science Communicator, Gini Letham.

Some facts about the titipounamu:

  • They have a very high-pitched call.
  • Males are green with yellow and white markings, females are brown with dark flecks.
  • They are the smallest endemic birds and also lay the smallest eggs.
  • They weigh around 6g and are similar in size to a golf ball.
  • They are one of two remaining wren species in New Zealand, making them very unique.
  • Classed as not threatened in New Zealand, although in Wellington City they were extinct until their re-introduction to Zealandia.
  • Māori refer to these little birds as messengers to the gods, specifically as one of the messengers of Tāne, god of the forest.

Forest & Bird’s Bird of the Year voting for this year's competition runs from Monday 18 October to Saturday 30 October. This year, voters can select up to five birds, ranking them from 1 to 5.

Last year kākāpō took the crown of feathers, but let’s make the mighty titipounamu the high-flying champion for 2021.