Pōpokotea | Whitehead

Pōpokotea are noisy and social birds usually found in groups. They were once common in bushy areas but their numbers have declined due to deforestation.

July 2015, after many months of behind-the scenes work, a group of bird translocation experts and experienced volunteers caught 40 whitehead at neighboring Tiritiri Matangi island, and 20 birds at Tawharanui Regional Park.

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The birds were caught using a system of mist nets and recorded calls played back to entice the birds. Once caught, they were kept in carefully prepared aviaries where they were monitored and regularly fed to ensure they gained weight and settled before being transported to the release site.

On the day of release, the birds were recaptured, reweighed, placed in special transport boxes, and taken to the ferry where a brief karakia from local maori elders sent them on their way across the water. The release site was initially chosen so as to be as far away from the fence as possible. You can see (and hear) them flitting off to their new homes in this video.

Since their release, the birds have become widespread in the sanctuary. They are often heard before they are seen, and you can familiarize yourself with their call at NZ Birds Online.  Look out for them in small and noisy flocks in trees and shrubs on the edges of the bush.