Pirongia Mountain has been selected to be the study site of a new national research programme called More Birds in the Bush which will be carried out by Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research.

Scientists from the biodiversity research organisation, Anne Schlesselmann, Neil Fitzgerald and John Innes, hope the research will help to inform conservation management of where and when to focus restoration efforts to achieve the greatest population growth in native forest bird numbers.

The programme is also designed to understand what drives increases in introduced mammal populations and native bird populations on a national scale by investigating links between food resources, mammal populations, and nesting success and survival of birds.

Many native birds are at risk due to introduced rats and stoats preying on them and their nests as well as competing for their food resources.

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A close-up of the rifleman nest, showing the feathers used to line it. Photo / Neil Fitzgerald.
A close-up of the rifleman nest, showing the feathers used to line it. Photo / Neil Fitzgerald.

The team has chosen Pirongia Mountain as a field site to fill knowledge gaps for three still common, but declining species; korimako (bellbird), miromiro (tomtit), and titipounamu (rifleman) which is New Zealand's smallest bird.

They are working within the pest control area that is managed by Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society covering the Tirohanga, Mahaukura and Wharauroa tracks, and on the southern side of the mountain, straddling the Hihikiwi track.

At this stage in the programme the team is mapping bird territories, setting up devices to measure food resources and introduced mammal abundance and they have found their first nests.

Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society chairwoman Clare St Pierre says the society is looking forward to following the research programme.

"Our society is very keen to learn from the outcomes of the study, which will help us with our continued work to bring our maunga back to life," Clare said.

Any updates on the research project will be posted to the society's Facebook page.