Tieke/Saddleback transfer to Bauza island

The second tieke transfer for Peregrine Wines

- from Breaksea Island to Bauza Island, Doubtful Sound

Peregrine Wines logoThis time thanks goes to Peregrine Wines who, in 2010, working in partnership with the FCT to assist with the protection and survival of tieke, funded the cost of the transfer of 36 tieke from Breaksea Island to Bauza Island in Doubtful Sound.

The island is now one of their havens. At 480 hectares it is a sizable island, the second largest in Doubtful Sound and is entirely clad in forest suitable for tieke habitat. Isolated from the mainland, stoats were the only resident predator found on the island. 

Since the establishment of a trap network in 2002 stoats no longer inhabit the island.  The trap network is checked and re-baited six monthly to prevent stoats reestablishing. 

This tremendous support is part of an ongoing initiative by Peregrine Wines who are passionate about supporting New Zealand's threatened species, especially the tieke/Saddleback and the kārearea/NZ Falcon. 

For more information on Peregrine Wines, the projects they support, and to purchase their Saddleback wine follow the link. More information can also be found in this Peregrine Wines PDF (289k).

The myth of the scorch mark

Saddleback wine labelAccording to Maori folklore, in lassoing the sun to slow it down and extend our daylight time, Maui worked up such a thirst that he asked the tieke to bring him some water. The cheeky tieke pretended not to hear and received a brown scorch mark across its back when Maui grabbed hold of it with his still fiery hand.

Their lucky escape

Prior to humans settling here (with rats and stoats in tow), the tieke/South Island saddleback was plentiful, inhabiting forest throughout the South Island. Their clamorous demeanour intrigues all who set sight on the striking bird.

Sadly, the ground nesting habits of the tieke make them an easy target for introduced predators hence their swift disappearance from the mainland by the early 20th century, limiting them to three islands: Big South Cape, Pukeweka, and Solomon Islands (near Stewart Island).

In 1964, they were almost wiped out in one of NZ's greatest environmental disasters of modern times. Rats arrived on Big South Cape Island, accidentally, escaping from a ship wrecked on the island. Thanks to Don Merton and the Wildlife Service staff at that time, 36 tieke/South Island saddleback were transferred from Big South Cape Island before they completely disappeared. 

They now only exist on a number of predator free islands where they thrive - all originate from the 36 rescued birds. 

Some facts about the tieke/South Island saddleback

Tieke, saddlebackThe tieke/saddleback is larger than other arboreal insect eating birds in New Zealand forests. They measure up to 25 cm (10 in) in length and weigh up to 75 grams (somewhat larger than a common blackbird). They will tear pieces of bark from tree trunks to find insects beneath. These are then dispatched and consumed with their short, robust, and unusually strong beak. They will also feed on the ground in leaf litter. Not restricting their diet to insects, they have been observed eating fruit and drinking nectar.

Poor fliers like their close relative the kokako, tieke mostly bound from branch to branch but they can also fly noisily over short distances. Usually nesting in epiphytes, tree fern crowns, or holes in tree trunks, they will nest and roost on the ground if there are no tree holes available. Fledglings tend to leave the nest to hop around in a typically noisy fashion on the ground while they build up strength in their wings. Such behaviour makes them especially vulnerable to rat predation.

The birds are notoriously territorial, fearless and noisy. They would frequently enchant European naturalists in the 19th century with their behaviour as they now do with anyone lucky enough to see them in their offshore island habitats.

Photo by Dick Veitch.