More North Island Robins for Great Barrier
by Judy Gilbert

 

By the time this newsletter goes to press 50 more North Island Robins will have been translocated from Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua to Aotea. This is a ‘booster’ translocation to add to the robins that were released at Windy Hill in 2004 and Glenfern Sanctuary in 2005. Since that time over 100 robin chicks have fledged in the sanctuary areas with some remaining to form new pairs and others moving out into the island. A small population, possibly four or five birds, has established a territory up near Mt Hobson. Three robins with leg bands which identify them as having come from Windy Hill have been seen at Mt Hobson and a couple of un-banded birds have also been seen which means at least some are breeding successfully.


Okiwi school children with their caged robins line up on a Glenfern Sanctuary bridge in preparation for the release.

 

Prior to the earlier translocation robins were last seen on the island in 1860 and classified as regionally extinct. These birds along with saddlebacks, kokako, and bellbirds have disappeared from the Barrier due to rat predation.

‘Booster’ translocations are a standard practice to assist the building of a viable self-sustaining population. It is hoped that this translocation, with 25 birds going to each sanctuary area, will create more pairs within the Glenfern and Windy Hill sanctuary areas that can breed successfully. Once young birds have fledged they are chased out of the parents territory and either move to a new area within the sanctuary or go out into the greater island area. Robin nests have been found at Shoal Bay, and birds seen at Whangaparapara, Station Rock, and Medlands from time to time.

A team made up of local people, local and Rotorua D.o.C personnel, and translocation consultant Kevin Parker plan to take three days to harvest the birds from rat-free Mokoia Island before transporting them to Rotorua airport, where Great Barrier Airlines is to sponsor a direct flight to Claris. The birds are housed and transported in modified cardboard cat boxes which have a perch fitted and are supplied with food and water. A powhiri to welcome the birds is planned on arrival at the airport and then the birds are to be transported to Windy HilKevin Parker, translocation leader, bands, sexes and ages the robins to be movedl and Glenfern Sanctuary. The birds will be held overnight and released on the morning of the 14th March giving them a full day to orient themselves. The field team at Windy Hill will monitor for the birds over the coming month, feeding them to encourage the birds to stay in the managed area. Further checks will be made in August as the robins form breeding pairs and establish territories.

This translocation has been generously sponsored by the Biodiversity Condition Fund, the ARC Environmental Initiatives Fund, Great Barrier Airlines, and GBI Rent a Cars.