Bream Head Reserve from Manaia

Whitehead Return Brings Bream Head Bird Song Bonanza

May 18, 2017

Our whitehead return was another celebration for Trustees, Volunteers, Friends and Supporters. Find out more by watching Ranger Adam Willetts’ interview with BBC World News, or by reading the media release below.

Interview with BBC World News

Whitehead Return Media Release

Media Release
25 April 2017

​​Whiteheads are returning to the Bream Head Scenic Reserve, bringing with them a bird song bonanza.

Bird and nature lovers are already enjoying the increasing sight and sound of native bird species on this iconic Whangarei Reserve since the Bream Head Conservation Trust’s habitat restoration programmes began there 15 years ago. That includes 40 North Island robins (toutouwai) translocated there in April 2016, and from mid-May up to 100 whiteheads, or popokatea, to watch and listen for.

popokatea whitehead

A whitehead (popokatea) on Tiritiri Matangi Island (credit nzbirdsonline.org.nz).

These small, gregarious, white and brown birds are often heard before they are seen. Also known as bush canaries, they live in noisy, chatty groups that fill the forest with a tuneful cacophony of sound.

“Releasing these sociable songbirds onto the Reserve has been in the planning for several years and comprises the final component of the Trust’s first five-year restoration plan,” says Bream Head Conservation Trust Chairman, Greg Innes.

“They are part of a research project by Northtec environmental studies students who supported the Trust with last year’s toutouwai translocation which has already seen eight breeding pairs rearing 19 fledglings to independence.”

Bream Head Conservation Trust Chief Ranger, Adam Willetts, says he hopes for an equally successful translocation with the whiteheads which haven’t been seen on the Reserve since they became regionally extinct around 140 years ago.

“Building on, and alongside the work of the Department of Conservation, we have spent many years restoring the Reserve to a healthy, almost predator-free environment and now look forward to having popokatea re-establish there,” he says.

A team of six Trust volunteers and rangers will travel to Tiritiri Matangi Island off the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in the second week of May to collect up to 100 of the birds. They form part of a larger capture team consisting of Tiritiri Matangi Island supporters and experienced reintroduction biologist, Kevin Parker of Parker Conservation.

“The birds will be captured using audio lures to attract them into mist nets,” Adam says.

“They will then be carefully measured and selected for relocation, banded for identification and housed in the on-island aviary where they will be well looked after and checked on around the clock.”

Depending on the weather and capture rates, the team aims to leave Tiritiri Matangi Island with the birds early on Saturday 13 May. The birds will be placed into boxes holding up to five in total and transported by air conditioned van to the Bream Head Reserve, hopefully arriving between 1pm and 2pm that day.

“The public is welcome to join us in meeting the birds on their arrival at the Bream Head Trust’s Operational Facility at the start of the Peach Cove track on Whangarei Heads Road, although the time cannot be guaranteed,” Adam says.

“After a short ceremony and blessing, teams of volunteers will carry the boxes up the steep 40-minute walk to the release site which has spectacular views back to Mount Manaia and up the Whangarei Harbour to Limestone Island.

“The site will provide a great setting to watch these canopy flock birds released as a large single group, and to celebrate this achievement together as we watch them fly off to explore their new home.”

ENDS

For more information, or to confirm or be part of the popokatea release date, please contact:

Adam Willetts on 0211557380 or rangers@breamheadtrust.nz
Claire Pearson on 0212507045 or claire@breamheadtrust.nz