Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tieke, the Saddleback

The Tieke is a fairly large, insectivorous wattlebird. Related to Kokako and Huia, it is extinct on the main islands of New Zealand but still flies wild on some of the offshore ones. They make their home in the middle and lower section of the forest where they forage in the leaf litter for grubs and bugs or prod at the bark. They prefer not to fly but leap about on their strong legs. In flight they are quite noisy. If insects are scarce, they are known to eat fruits and nectar. They are vocal birds, with the males have a vast repertoire of melodious tunes, that they use to defend their territory and call to their mates. Both male and female look similar, but it takes juveniles some time to develop their distinctive "saddle". A bold and curious bird, they tend to nest quite near the ground, in epiphyes, tree fern crowns or hollows in the tree trunks. When the youngsters fledge, they will hop around the ground beneath the nest where they fall easy prey to hunting stoats or rats. This is one reason for their decline on the mainland. Another is habitat loss. If you've been following this blog for some time and reading these descriptions, you will see that the major cause of extinctions or decline of our native birds is introduced predators and habitat loss. These two factors have affected many island-style bird populations, all the world over.

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