7 December 2022
In 2009 hihi were reintroduced to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari. Over three years, 155 birds were translocated from Tiritiri Matangi Island and Te Hauturu-o-Toi. Since then, the estimated population has fluctuated and currently sits at around 100 birds. Sanctuary Mountain is the Hihi Conservation Trust's largest hihi site in size, and the hope is that it can support larger populations in the future.
Each year there is a huge investment in monitoring for hihi. It takes me 40 days to cover most of the monitoring tracks, walking and listening for hihi. Then, when I find one, I record its unique colour band combination, or if the bird is unbanded, I try to catch it. I use a 6m mist net strung up between two poles and a playback device playing hihi calls underneath it. The idea is they are attracted to the calls and fly into the net; sometimes, it works, and sometimes it doesn't.
Once caught, they are fitted with a metal band with a unique number and three colour bands, creating a unique combination that becomes their identity and makes them recognisable as an individual in future surveys. This year I visited SMM in August and October. I found 35 hihi; 9 were female and 26 were male. As you can see on the map, they were mainly found on the eastern side of the maunga. Green lines are areas I surveyed and red dots are where I found hihi.
Sixteen of these were unbanded and I managed to catch and band 8. This is lower than average, which was to be expected based on the relatively poor previous breeding season observed at the sites we monitor with nest boxes. Thirty-five is the minimum number of hihi known to be alive during the survey and we have a high-tech demographic model that will produce a population estimate for us at the end of the season.
To help inform this model, a group of keen volunteers have started monitoring hihi by taking on a set route that they walk monthly. This will add to our knowledge of this population so we can make more informed predictions of what might happen in the future. Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is part of the hihi recovery group. We are trying to recover hihi in Aotearoa using a national approach and adaptive management for the species. If you would like to stay up-to-date with national hihi recovery, please sign up for our newsletter here.
Hihi Conservation Trust Update
Mhairi McCready Conservation Officer