With the recent translocation of 40 birds from Tiritiri Matangi, Shakespear Open Sanctuary now has saddlebacks (tieke).
These are noisy, friendly and attractive birds, which are often fossicking on or near the ground, so over time they will become as popular as our robins. As usual, they were all released as far from the pest-proof fence as possible so it may take a while to reach the walking track along Waterfull Gully.
They are of the wattlebird family, the same one as the kokako and huia, and at one time were extinct on the mainland. The few existing mainland populations are all in fenced sanctuaries, and this is only the second mainland population in the Auckland Region.
Because they are weak fliers and forage near the ground they are extremely vulnerable to predators so we need your help in looking after them. If you see one outside the sanctuary fence please let us know immediately and a team will come and try to catch and return it. They look a bit like a small blackbird with a bright orange back (hence the name) and a red wattle (fleshy bits hanging below the throat).
They have a distinctive call (see below) and flit through trees with a lot of jumping and not much flying so they also have a distinctive behaviour.
If you are unsure, check with a photo to be sure that it’s a saddleback you’ve seen and then ring the Northern Regional Parks Office (ph 09 426 1200) or email us with your location and contact details.
If you’d like to see more native birds in your own garden you can help by removing or managing your own pests and predators. There are plenty of online guides which explain how to do this (especially that of the local branch of Forest and Bird). There are also guides as to what to plant to attract birds, and what not to plant.
New Zealand has a staggering 30,000 introduced plant species, of which 300 or so are invasive pests so if you can at least avoid (and preferably remove) these it still leaves enough choice for anyone.
This brings to an end our current programme of relocating missing bird species, and next up will probably be some missing insects, reptiles and plants. There are a few birds which are present in small numbers, such as bellbirds and kakariki, and their numbers might also get a boost in order to add some genetic diversity and a better balance in the species present.
But all this will depend not only on our ability to keep the sanctuary pest-free but also on how well the suitability of the habitat improves.
Of course none of this would be possible without the annual tree-planting, which has now been going on for some 45 years. Most of what you see when you drive from Army Bay to Te Haruhi Bay has been planted since the Regional Park was created. This year’s plantings are coming up fast, with about 14,000 seedlings ready to go in and we need your help to do this. The dates this year are June 17 and July 15 and 22, and you can find more details on our website.
Please come and help – you might see a saddleback! To hear a saddleback song, visit http://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/north-island-saddleback