North Island saddleback | Tīeke

North Island saddlebacks were confined to a single population on Hen Island (Taranga) off the northeast coast of the North Island by the early 1900s. A series of successful translocations has led to 18 populations including their natural population on Hen Island and a thriving population at Sanctuary Mountain® Maungatautari. Voted most likely to be both heard, then seen!

English name: North Island Saddleback 

Māori name: eke

Scientific name: Philesturnus rufusater

New Zealand status: Endemic (only found in New Zealand) momo taketake

Conservation status: Relict

Threats: Predation from introduced predators such as ship rats and stoats. They are particularly vulnerable to these predators due to their cavity roosting and cavity nesting behaviour.

I mōhio rānei koe? Did you know?: They are a member of the Callaeidae family, an ancient family of wattlebirds endemic to New Zealand including North Island Saddleback, South Island Saddleback, North Island Kōkako, South Island Kōkako (data deficient, possibly extinct) and the Huia (extinct).

40 were translocated from Tiritiri Matangi Island to Sanctuary Mountain® Maungatautari in 2013.

Geographical variation: South Island Saddleback, Philesturnus carunculatus

Tīeke | North Island Saddleback at Sanctuary Mountain® Maungatautari

Tīeke can be encountered when walking the trails of Te Tūī a Tāne, the southern enclosure forest. They are often heard first and then seen. Listen for loud chattering calls (the loudest of all the bird calls), or the male's rhythmical territorial song that often starts with 2-4 introductory chips and then follows with a series of repeated phrases that sound a little bit like a car that won't start!

They are extremely active foragers, from the forest floor to the canopy. They use their bill like an anvil to chip away at rotting wood to find the juicy bugs underneath. Listen for their calls and for the sound of leaf litter being tossed aside or the bark of trees being cracked open. 



40 North Island Saddlebacks were translocated to Sanctuary Mountain® Maungatautari from Tiritiri Matangi Island in 2013.

Ngā mihi nui, Tiritiri Matangi Island and the supporters of Tiritiri Matangi.

When initially transolcated in 2013, Tīeke were surveyed to determine how well they were doing in their new environment on Maungatautari. Surveys have not been required since because they have become self-sustaining and are one of the birds most likely to be seen or heard on the mountain today. Tīeke breed successfully provided they are protected from introduced predators. They can have up to 4 clutches of eggs per breeding season.

Join our guides on an Ancient Forest Tour

Our knowledgeable guides can help you to identify many of the plants and animals you'll encounter within the forest, including Tīeke!