Tūī disappeared from Banks Peninsula about 20 years ago, apart from occasional sightings of individual birds. In 2007 a group of people started planning to bring back tūī to Banks Peninsula, to see this iconic bird returned, with the hope of developing a successfully breeding population of tūī. Translocation of tūī to a new habitat on mainland New Zealand had never been attempted before. A Tūī Restoration Group was formed and started fund-raising, predator-trapping, and preparing a release site for the transfer of tūī.
A translocation proposal was approved, and a team of volunteers spent 10 days on Maud Island in Malborough Sound, capturing 30 tui.
Hinewai Reserve was chosen as the release site on Banks Peninsula, as it had important features required for the translocation. A 100 hectare area of bush was selected, and a system of traplines was established. Tracking tunnels were placed on site to establish what predators were present such as stoats, possums, and rats.
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Since the translocation of 72 tui from Maud Island to Banks Peninsula in 2009 and 2010, monitoring has shown that the project has been successful, at least in the short term. There is a lot of interest from peninsula residents in how the tui will fare in the long term.
The Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust have begun a new round of sponsorship for naming tui. Fifteen birds will be colour banded and have radio transmitters fitted this sprint to learn more about their movement and nesting habits. The successful translocation of tūi by the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust has captured the attention of many local Peninsula residents who now enjoy hearing and seeing tūi in their gardens. The birds have been spotted in many places over the Peninsula although most sightings appear to be concentrated around the Akaroa township, Okuti Valley and Otanerito/Long Bay.
Many tūi are unbanded which makes it difficult to be sure how many tūi there are in total because without colour leg bands it is not possible to tell them apart.
Monitoring nests to determine success rates and causes of failure will help us understand whether tūi are able to cope with the levels of introduced predators present on Banks Peninsula, and whether we should be expecting the population to grow or or decline over the next few years. The recent round of sponsorship is for anyone interested in naming and sponsoring a tūi. Tūi live for around 15 years so it would make a wonderful gift for someone special as well as making a valuable contribution to the project.
A new website called Nature Watch allows people to report sightings and photos of tūi (and other wildlife), so this is an excellent way of following sponsored tūi. The tūi project site is http://naturewatch.org.nz/projects/banks-peninsula-tui-restoration.
To follow the Tui project and assist with monitoring the birds, check out the following resources
Tui News February 2017
(Photo credit Trevor Bedford)