News | 11 October 2022
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Council takes hihi under its wing for Bird of the Year 2022

Being one of Aotearoa’s rarest birds, and with their yellow and black colouring, we think the hihi passes this year’s underbird theme with flying colours.

Image of hihi stitchbird as part of the Bird of the Year 2020 campaign
Hihi photo credit Tony Stoddard

The Bird of the Year Te Manu Rongonui o Te Tau competition has returned to the nest for 2022, with voting open from 17-30 October. This competition, hosted by Forest and Bird, showcases Aotearoa’s native birds and the importance of their preservation. 

This year’s theme of ‘underbirds’ highlights the more underappreciated and overlooked native birds of New Zealand. 

Wellington City Council’s Biosecurity Specialist Henk Louw says the competition really creates great awareness about our most at risk birds in Pōneke and Aotearoa.

“Thanks to years of collaboration between Council, Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne, Predator Free Wellington and great mahi from thousands of volunteers and groups around the capital, native bird species numbers are constantly increasing and predator activity is down.

“This collective mahi through various dedicated organisations and the many conservation and restoration programmes in Pōneke have been so successful that birds that were bordering on extinction are now doing better. We’re heading in the right direction – but there’s still a long way to go.”

Council is putting its weight behind the hihi for its on-point colour scheme, and to give it as much airtime as some of its feathered friends.

Hihi are pollinators and have curved bills and long tongues that let them reach deep into flowers for nectar. While female hihi have olive feathers, male hihi share the Council’s yellow and black colours, fitting the bill perfectly to be our bird of the year. 

The English name for hihi, the stitchbird, supposedly comes from their high-pitched zit tzit sounding call. The birds’ te reo Māori name means ‘healing rays of sunlight’, referring to the burst of yellow on the shoulders of the male birds which flashes bright when the bird moves through light.

As birds of a feather flock together, Council supported organisation Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne is also backing the hihi this year. Since their introduction in 2005, Zealandia is thought to have the largest mainland population of hihi, which were lost everywhere but Te Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier Island. 

Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne conservation ranger, Rachel Selwyn, says hihi are one of the most vulnerable species at Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne.

“We provide them with a lot of additional support to help the population by providing nest boxes, sugar water and regular monitoring. We want hihi to win Bird of the Year this year so people can know how hard these birds are fighting to stay alive and how they can help support them as well.”

Wellington is one of the few places in the country where you can encounter the threatened hihi. To support the hihi, and other native birds, consider taking actions to protect them, such as joining a local volunteer trapping group, keeping your cat at home, or setting up a nectar feeder with sugar water at your home. You can also contribute to this month’s Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne hihi appeal.  

There are so many great manu in the running, but only one will rule the roost as bird of the year.

We’ll be celebrating the hihi throughout the competition, so keep an eagle eye on our social media channels, and make sure to vote hihi at