Endangered saddleback find new home in Fiordland

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Lindsay Wilson releasing tieke Dusky Sound

South Island tīeke/saddleback have been introduced to a new intensively-managed island site in Dusky Sound, Fiordland in a bid to allow the overall tīeke population to expand.

The project, led by the Fiordland Conservation Trust, was undertaken in partnership with private donors, Te Rūnaka o Ōraka Aparima, Te Kaitiaki Roopū o Murihuku and the Department of Conservation (DOC).
 Over the last two weeks, 138 tīeke were relocated to Five Fingers Peninsula/Tau Moana from predator-free Breaksea, Anchor, Chalky and Passage islands where populations of the birds had been previously established. Five Fingers Peninsula (3300 ha) adjoins Resolution Island/Mauikatau, Fiordland’s largest island (20,888 ha).

Lindsay Wilson, DOC Principal Ranger (Biodiversity), said that the project aimed to establish a sizeable new tīeke population.

“This could be a game changer for tīeke—it’s a large site with ideal habitat so the population could increase by thousands more birds.” 


“This translocation will also show us whether species that are vulnerable to stoat predation can establish in areas with low predator numbers. This information is vital as the drive toward Predator Free 2050 sees increasing predator control across the country.”

“As well as boosting the recovery of tieke, this project could pave the way for other predator-sensitive species such as kākāpō, to be returned to Resolution Island,” Lindsay Wilson said.

Fiordland Conservation Trust Chairman Kim Hollows said the Trust were proud to support the tīeke transfer.

“This was a significant project for the Trust. It was a great example of a large number of people including sponsors and iwi working together in partnership to secure the survival of an iconic vulnerable native bird species and the restoration of Dusky Sound.”

“Thanks to the support from our key partners, we could see numbers of tīeke continue to grow.” 


“The birds will be monitored to see how they do, and whether they breed and disperse to the wider island,” Kim Hollows said.

A network of nearly 3000 traps keep stoats at near-zero levels on Five Fingers Peninsula and very low levels on Resolution Island. The entire peninsula was surveyed by a team of stoat detection dogs prior to the release and no evidence of stoats was found.

In the past 50 years, South Island tīeke have recovered from a low of about 36 birds to nearly 3000 on predator-free islands but population growth has stalled due to these islands reaching carrying capacity.
 Mohua/yellowhead and pāteke/brown teal have been successfully returned to Resolution Island in recent years. The island is also home to rock wren/pīwauwau and southern tokoeka/kiwi.

Photo: Releasing Tieke on Five Fingers Peninsula, Lindsay Wilson Principal Ranger Biodiversity Te Anau. Credit Laura Harry