After an absence of several decades New Zealand's smallest bird, the titipounamu or rifleman, will return to Rotokare Sanctuary.

Sixty titipounamu are being trans located from a 1000ha block on Egmont National Park and transported to Rotokare Sanctuary.

For over two years the Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust has been working towards reintroducing titipounamu to the sanctuary. In collaboration with the Taranaki Mounga Project, the aim is to establish another secure and productive Taranaki population of New Zealand's smallest forest bird.

Their abundance on the Mounga has been the result of an increased predator control programme in the block which began in 2016.


Rotokare Sanctuary Manager Simon Collins says the birds are safely caught by skilled contractors and volunteers using a mist net.

"Kevin Parker of Parker Conservation and several of the most skilled and experienced bird catchers in the country, including from the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi, are leading the catching efforts," says Simon.

Each bird has a health check, has unique bands attached to their legs so they can be identified, and are then safely transported to Rotokare to be released the same day.

The reintroduction of titipounamu is exciting and will increase the number of bird species already thriving within the sanctuary.

Simon says it's great to receive these native birds from the Mounga.

"The addition of 60 titipounamu will be a boost to the reserve already teeming with birdlife. This titipounamu translocation is a perfect example of how biodiversity projects in Taranaki are working to support each others' aspirations and restoration goals.

"We hope that in the future, species such as tieke and hihi that have now been returned to the region and are thriving at Rotokare can one day be released on the Mounga".

Two rounds of monitoring on the Mounga indicated several hundred titipounamu in the 1000ha block which presented a good case for translocation to Rotokare.


Taranaki Mounga Project Manager Sean Zieltjes is pleased to have been able to reciprocate by preparing kiwi for translocation on the Mounga and a number of toutouwai - North Island robin - monitoring activities.

"Manaakitanga (generosity and care) is a key principal of Taranaki Mounga and we are excited to see our titipounamu thrive at Rotokare," says Sean.

"We look forward to more translocations in the future as our native bird population grows on our Mounga in the future."

The 230ha Rotokare Sanctuary is now home to five of the six endemic New Zealand bird families, and all four surviving New Zealand song-bird families.