Stroll through bush to meet toutouwai

By Lindy Laird

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A North Island robin (toutouwai). Photo / Steve Attwood
A North Island robin (toutouwai). Photo / Steve Attwood

Their spindly legs look twice as long as their chubby little bodies which is why the tiny North Island robin sometimes seems taller than it really is.

That, and other facts, are what members of the public will learn when they take part in the Bream Head Conservation Trust's Conservation Week series of walks to Come See the Robins.

A proud, erect stance adds to their height, but at most they only reach 18cm from tip to toe.

Bands of light to dark grey feathers on wings and tail, with a lighter patch on its breast, are pretty good camouflage as the robin, also called toutouwai, forages around the lower undergrowth or at ground level.

But, even though they're tiny and blend into the bush, you're unlikely to miss one when walking in the bush because, with their gregarious, nosy nature they're likely to find you and flitter around delightfully in full view.

The North Island robin, which lives in forest and scrub, has been a stranger to mainland Whangarei since 1912 with the last sighting at the old Reotahi meatworks site.

That changed when the conservation trust translocated 40 robins to the Whangarei Heads coastal reserve, releasing them in two groups of 20 earlier this year.

It was made possible by the trust's work to create a safe habitat for a lost species to return to, and the gift of birds from Tiri Tiri Matangi island and by Ngati Rereahu hapu from Mangatutu in the King Country.

Head ranger Adam Willets and NorthTec students are surveying the robin's numbers, with 28 birds identified so far.

While it's slightly early in the season for nesting, there are indications that some birds are pairing up, the eventual cross-breeding from Tiri Tiri Matangi and Mangatutu boding well for the species, Mr Willets said.

The trust wants to share these insights with the public on four walks, two on September 11 and two on September 18.

The robins' habitat is accessible but the walks require a reasonable level of fitness, as the first section of the track leads steeply uphill.

The walks leave the Peach Cove carpark near Ocean Beach at 10am and noon, but are limited to 20 people, so please book by calling Claire Pearson, 09 434 0571.

- Northern Advocate

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