Waitangi the tītī has returned to his nesting site in northern Hawke's Bay, and this time he's brought friends with him.

Almost six years ago 113 tītī (Cook's petrel) chicks were brought from Little Barrier Island to Maungaharuru, 60km north of Napier, under the Poutiri Ao ō Tāne project. The aim was to establish permanent populations in Hawke's Bay.

Translocations of a similar scale for both tītī and kōrure continued for the next four years with kōrure brought from Codfish Island/Whenua Hou off the coast of Stewart Island/Rakiura.

Waitangi the tītī, seen here in 2018. Photo / Supplied
Waitangi the tītī, seen here in 2018. Photo / Supplied

Waitangi, named after the day he was found, was spotted in a burrow in the Poutiri Ao ō Tāne seabird site on the Maungaharuru Range on February 6, 2018.


He's back again this year, and a few more tītī have been spotted returning, as well as a kōrure/mottled petrel, causing "great excitement" among birdwatchers.

Once, the birds nested across the range in their millions, however, habitat loss and predation by introduced mammals such as rats caused them to become locally extinct.

Waitangi has been spotted with a friend in the mountains of northern Hawke's Bay. Photo / Supplied
Waitangi has been spotted with a friend in the mountains of northern Hawke's Bay. Photo / Supplied

Department of Conservation operations manager Connie Norgate said the adults' return to the site they were taken to as chicks was a sign that a "highly experimental" translocation was showing signs of success.

At a distance of 23.9km from the sea, it is the most inland of any seabird translocation attempted, and at 1000m above sea level is also the highest.

It has taken this long for them to return. These seabirds are specialist deep water or pelagic foragers – often out at sea for five years before returning to their nesting sites to breed.

"To have Waitangi back on the maunga and introducing a friend to his burrow is wonderful news," Norgate said.

"Wouldn't it be amazing if we found eggs soon?"

Maungaharuru-Tangitū Trust kaumātua Trevor Taurima said DoC had been monitoring the site through motion sensitive cameras and checking burrows for signs of use since September.


As part of the programme a sound system plays tītī and kōrure calls to replicate a colony.

The first camera image of Waitangi and friends was on December 1, the same day a celebration of all translocations since 2011 was taking place.

"Did the tītī hear the welcoming call of the karakia and tuneful waiata and decide to show their faces on camera?" Taurima said.

"The rewards of the Poutiri Ao ō Tāne whole community approach and translocations just keep getting better – may it long continue so that the maunga will haruru (roar) once again."

To see more footage go to: https://www.facebook.com/poutiri