Once common throughout the North and South islands, tīeke belong to the same wattlebird family as the endangered kōkako and the extinct huia. Tīeke roost and nest in cavities, making their eggs and young highly vulnerable to predation by introduced mammals. This means the species can only live and thrive where pests are at very low numbers or excluded entirely. As a result, just forty years ago, North Island tīeke had been almost completely exterminated by introduced rats, stoats, cats and possums and were restricted to just one small group of islands north of Auckland. Fortunately today they can be found flourishing on many recently pest-mammal-eradicated islands in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, such as Rotoroa, Tiritiri Matangi, Rangitoto and neighbouring Motuihe Island, and further afield thanks to an intensive programme of reintroductions carried out by Department of Conservation and several partners.
This amazing conservation success story just goes to show what can be achieved when introduced mammals are eradicated and native species are given a chance to recover.
The gorgeous tīeke are easily identified by the bright red appendages on either side of their beak known as "wattles" and the red-brown ‘saddle’ of plumage on their backs. Maori pūrākau (legend) tells that after Maui and his brothers trapped the sun (Te Rā), Maui asked his friend the tīeke to bring him cold water so that he could quench his thirst, but the bird stubbornly pretended not to hear him. Maui was irritated by this and seized the tīeke with his sun-warmed hands, scorching the bird’s feathers.
We believe it essential for all New Zealanders to see, hear and build a connection with the endemic species of this land and you can do just this in our New Zealand sanctuary, Te Wao Nui. Every visit you make to our zoo contributes to the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund which enables us to do vital conservation work for endangered species all over the country and abroad.