The number of female hihi at Whanganui's Bushy Park Tarapuruhi sanctuary has doubled after a better breeding season.
Hihi, or stitchbirds, were once common but are now one of New Zealand's most endangered birds. They are vulnerable to predation and to diseases spread from non-native species. There are only an estimated 2000 left, and the Whanganui forest sanctuary is one of six places on the mainland where the tiny birds still exist.
They were introduced there in 2013. Last breeding season there were just eight females, and they managed to fledge 16 chicks.
This summer season 26 chicks were fledged and the number of females in the sanctuary's population of 46 doubled to 16.
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The birds were "little rays of sunshine" for University of Otago student Emma Gray, who spent more than three months monitoring their breeding success for her Master of Wildlife Management degree.
The 95ha forest reserve had a good 2020, trust chairman Kevin Ross said. Visitor numbers to both the forest and the historic homestead were up and they jointly won a Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust award.
The homestead has been so busy that lessee Dale Pullen is closing it on May 10-18 to have a break. He will also close it from December 24 to January 5.
Education co-ordinator Keith Beautrais has had 1000 pupils visit the sanctuary, and reached another 1000 through classroom visits.
The volunteers who arrive on Tuesdays and Thursdays have put in at least 4556 hours of work, and the number of mice in the sanctuary was reduced by a knockdown effort.
Birds that leave the sanctuary to find new homes have their chances of survival improved by the Bushy Park Tarapuruhi "halo" project.
The 600ha that surround the sanctuary have 162 traps for possums, rats and stoats. The traps are monitored by contractor Richard Terrey, and the project is funded by the Department of Conservation Community Fund.