Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spotting Saddlebacks

Saddleback. Ulva Island. Feb 2009. Ajr
The day I joined Ulva’s Guided Tour of Ulva Island Bird Sanctuary we had barely gone fifteen feet before we had spotted ten bird species. The one I was most excited about was the Saddleback or tieke as the Maori call it. It belongs to New Zealand’s unique wattlebird family (Callaeidae), an ancient group of birds that includes the endangered kokako and the extinct huia. There are two sub-species – the North Island Saddleback and the South Island Saddleback. My photo – a sneaky glimpse from afar between tree branches - doesn’t show the bird’s gorgeous red-brown ‘saddle’ but it does show its cute little wattles. The Department of Conservation is actively engaged in a recovery plan for both North and South Island tieke, releasing them onto predator free islands – like Ulva Island – so that their populations might recover. Thirty South Island saddlebacks were released on Ulva Island eight years ago; now there are 250 living there, so the plan is obviously working well. www.ulva.co.nz www.doc.govt.nz

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