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Rangatira - a premier bird island

Rangatira Island (South East Island) has been described as one of the world’s premier bird islands1. The third largest island in the Chatham Islands archipelago, with an area of 218 ha, the island lies over 800 km east of New Zealand's South Island, off the south-east coast of Pitt Island, 55 km south-east of the main settlement, Waitangi, on Chatham Island.

Rangatira has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International. These areas are identified using an internationally agreed set of criteria as being globally important for the conservation of bird populations.

The Rangatira IBA supports large breeding colonies of seabirds, including 330,000 pairs of broad-billed prions (Pachyptila vittata), 1,000 pairs of Chatham petrels (Pterodroma axillaris) and 840,000 pairs of white-faced storm petrels (Pelagodroma marina)2.  Pitt shag (Phalacrocorax featherstoni), Chatham oystercatcher (Haematopus chathamensis), and Chatham snipe (Coenocorypha pusilla) are also present3. Until recently, Rangatira was the stronghold, and last remaining breeding site for the Chatham petrel; new colonies on Pitt and Chatham Islands are being established4.

Rangatira is vitally important to the survival of the shore plover (Thinornis novaeseelandiae) and black robin (Petroica traversi), where the largest populations exist. The conservation status of both these species are assessed as nationally critical5. 


 The special birds of Rangatira


Clockwise from top left

Shore Plover. Photo: Sarah Forder

Chatham Island oystercatcher.  Photo: Sarah Matthew

Chatham Island Snipe. Photo: Sarah Forder





1 Accessed 1 October 2017.

2BirdLife International, 2017. Important Bird Areas factsheet: Rangatira South East Island. on.  Accessed 1 October 2017.

3Nilsson, R.J., Kennedy, E.S., West, J.A., 1994. The birdlife of South East Island (Rangatira), Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Notornis. Vol. 41:109-125.

4 Accessed 1 October 2017.

5Robertson, H.A., Baird, K., Dowding, J.E., Elliott, G.P., Hitchmough, R.A., Miskelly, C.M., McArthur, N., O’Donnell, C.J., Sagar, P.M., Scofield, P., and Taylor, G.A., 2017. Conservation status of New Zealand birds, 2016. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 19. Department of Conservation, Wellington. 23 p.

Environmental News Issue 38 Spring/Summer 2017