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Protected mainland tītī thriving following installation of A24 trap network in Bluff

A common seagull the tītī is not! These small black sea birds are a cultural treasure in the south of Aotearoa and our mainland tītī colonies are seriously at risk as a result of rat and stoat predation.

Bluff Hill is home to one such rare mainland tītī colony. While tītī on predator-free offshore islands thrive, mainland tītī are usually plucked clean out of their ground burrows by predators while they’re chicks, meaning only few make it to adulthood.

These mainland colonies aren’t harvested, unlike those on Rakiura (Stewart Island) Tītī Islands which have been sustainably harvested as a food source annually by Rakiura Maori for generations and are protected by law.

Fortunately for the Bluff Hill tītī colony, the Bluff Hill Motupōhue Environment Trust (BHMET), a group of dedicated volunteers, had the tītī’s best interests at heart. This group have worked hard over years to ensure that the southernmost point of the South Island is clear of pests to provide a safe place for native species to regenerate.

Upon realising how vulnerable the few mainland tītī colonies that remained were, BHMET Chairwoman Estelle Leask set about raising funds and uniting the Bluff community to implement a predator control network on Bluff Hill.

“Protecting and preserving native species on Bluff Hill is an integral part of our work. Through the implementation of an automatic trapping network, we hope to see a pest-free sanctuary created for our native bird and plants, including our precious tītī colonies, for future generations to come,” says Trust Chairwoman Estelle Leask.

In late 2018, our Technical Expert Sam Gibson headed to the deep south to help the Trust layout the traps they’d purchased following a kind donation from Ka Mate Nga Kiore. The layout went well, and the Trust have only recently needed to check their A24 trap lines – with a pleasant surprise.

The two tītī colonies that the Trust protected on Bluff Hill had a surprising number of chicks this year (2019). Following the installation of 80 A24 traps in November 2018, they found the chicks in their tītī colonies to have increased by 50%! A record number in the decade since they’ve been protecting the hill.

“To have a titi population thriving on Bluff Hill helps to engage the local and wider community about how important it is to protect this colony by giving the native wildlife a chance to breed without the pressure from introduced pests,” says Leask. “The generosity shown by Ka Mate Nga Kiore has helped us to achieve our goals by protecting our precious tītī.”

Bluff Hill boasts an array of native bird and plant species including red-crowned kakariki, fernbirds, yellow-eyed penguins, little blue penguins, kaka and Stewart Island shags along with skinks, weta and other invertebrates.

Invasive pests have wreaked havoc on the native flora and fauna, as rats and stoats eat seeds, seedlings, foliage, tītī eggs and chicks. Our A24 traps will help the Bluff Hill Trust to keep the predator numbers down, so these species can bounce back.

Want to learn more? Check out this story from TVNZ:

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/rare-mainland-bird-colony-in-southland-records-highest-breeding-success-more-than-decade

Want to help the Bluff Hill Motupōhue Environment Trust? Check out their website:

http://www.bluffenvirotrust.org/

Photo credit: Yvonne Pickford