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North Island Saddleback or Tieke, Philesturnus rufusater

The North Island saddleback (Philesturnus rufusater) is a forest-dwelling passerine bird, endemic to the North Island of New Zealand. It is also known in Māori as the tīeke. It was formerly considered conspecific with the South Island saddleback. The IUCN lists the species as Near Threatened, while it is listed as a "recovering" species in the New Zealand Threat Classification System.

Distribution and habitat
North Island saddlebacks naturally occupy lowland broadleaf and coastal evergreen forests, though as a result of translocations, they are now also found in various other forest environments. Before the arrival of humans, North Island saddlebacks were widespread on mainland North Island.

However, a combination of deforestation and introduced mammalian predators decimated these populations, and by the 1890's, the mainland population was eliminated, and the remaining North Island saddlebacks were only found on Hen Island, a small island off the coast of Northland.

Translocation efforts by the New Zealand Wildlife Service began in 1964, with birds being transported to Whatapuke Island. Further translocations have resulted in the North Island saddleback occupying various islands offshore (and onshore, at Lake Rotorua):

• Hen and Chicken Islands

• Hen Island

• Whatapuke Island

• Lady Alice Island

• Coppermine Island (colonized)

• Little Barrier Island

• Tiritiri Matangi Island

• Cuvier Island

• Red Mercury Island

• Stanley Island

• Moutohora Island (Whale Island)

• Mokoia Island, Lake Rotorua

• Kapiti Island

• MoTuihe Island

• Rangitoto Island

• Motutapu Island

North Island saddlebacks were first re-introduced to the mainland in 2002, at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (now known as Zealandia) in Wellington. Some saddlebacks have since started breeding outside of the predator-proof sanctuary.

Saddlebacks have also been introduced at several other mainland sanctuaries. The total population of North Island saddlebacks (as of 2013) is estimated to be at least 7,000.

North Island Saddleback or Tieke, Philesturnus rufusater
North Island Saddleback or Tieke, Philesturnus rufusater
Range map from - Ornithological Portal is one of those MUST visit pages if you're in to bird watching. You can find just about everything there

Taxonomy and systematics
René Lesson first described the species in 1828 from a specimen collected in the Bay of Islands four years earlier, using the binomial name Icterus rufusater. The specific name rufusater refers to the saddleback's plumage - a combination of the Latin words rufus 'reddish-brown', and ater 'black'.

Their placement in the genus Icterus has since been revised, and the two saddleback species are now in their own separate genus, Philesturnus. This genus, created by Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1832, comes from a portmanteau of two bird genera - Philemon (friarbirds) and Sturnus (starlings).

Historically, there has been some uncertainty over the status of the North Island saddleback as its own species. North Island and South Island saddlebacks were formerly considered to be two subspecies of Philesturnus carunculatus, with the North Island subspecies being designated P. c. rufusater.

However, today they are generally considered to be separate species, with the North Island saddlebacks having the binomial Philesturnus rufusater.

Listen to the North Island saddleback

The plumage of North Island saddlebacks is mostly black apart from the saddle, rump, and tail coverts, which are chestnut. North Island saddlebacks are distinguished from South Island saddlebacks by a faint yellow lining on the superior edge of the saddle.

The black bill is starling-like, with orange-red wattles hanging from its base. North Island saddlebacks have an average length of 25 cm. Males tend to be heavier (80 g) than females (69 g), and possess longer bills and larger wattles. North Island saddlebacks produce calls described as "cheet, te-te-te-te" or "ti-e-ke-ke-ke-ke". The Māori name for the bird, tīeke, is derived from the sound of this call.

Listen to the Saddleback
Own recording from when we walked to the lighthouse on Tiritiri Matangi Island

Behaviour and ecology

North Island saddlebacks are monogamous and usually mate for life. The breeding season can vary from year to year and location to location, though clutches typically start appearing from August to April.

Fledgling saddlebacks are often seen until March and April. Saddleback nests are mostly built in tree cavities, and will lay up to four eggs per clutch.

Food and feeding
The diet of North Island saddlebacks mostly consists of insects, berries, invertebrates, and nectar. Their bill allows them to force open dead wood to expose insects such as grubs. In forests, saddlebacks forage at all heights, but tend to spend most of the time on the forest floor browsing in leaf litter.

Introduced mammalian predators, particularly brown rats, were the primary cause of the North Island saddleback's extinction from mainland New Zealand. Saddlebacks are particularly suspectable to predation because of their tendency to roost and nest in low-lying areas.

Several translocations of North Island saddlebacks were made to Kapiti Island between 1981 and 1990, but the population suffered high mortality due to rat predation (rats were not eradicated until 1998).

Today, North Island saddleback populations are usually found on predator-free islands and in sanctuaries protected by pest fences, affording the birds protection from these predators. North Island saddlebacks appear to be capable of co-existing with some predators such as the kiore, possibly because they have had a longer history of cohabitation than with the European species.

Current efforts are focused towards exterminating pests surrounding mainland sanctuaries, to allow the saddlebacks to successfully expand outside of the sanctuaries.

South Island saddlebacks have been affected by avian malaria and avian pox; this has not yet spread to the North Island saddlebacks, but there are concerns that it may do so in the future.

Conservation status
North Island Saddleback or Tieke, Philesturnus rufusater
Near Threatened (IUCN 3.1)
IUCN Red List oof Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T103730503A104102989.
doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T103730503A104102989.en. Retrieved 15 January 2018.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sighted: 25 October 2017 (Date of first photo that I could use)
Location: Tiritiri Matangi Island

North Island Saddleback or Tieke, Philesturnus rufusater
Saddlebacks or Tieke - Philesturnus rufusater - Tiritiri Matangi Island - 25 October 2017

North Island Saddleback or Tieke, Philesturnus rufusater
Saddlebacks or Tieke - Philesturnus rufusater - Tiritiri Matangi Island - 25 October 2017

Bird watching

Going bird watching on New Zealand? I have been to a few places but so far New Zealand is outstanding regarding information on the internet. There are two organizations that are sticking New Zealand flagout so far when it comes to information about birds and wildlife/ outdoor living.
Bird information, bird song and maps. Yes, there are excellent trekking maps online so you can plan, or go back after the trek to see where you have been, excellent. I have not been disappointed.

• New Zealand Birds Online

• New Zealand's Department of Conservation Click on “Nature” or just hoover with the mouse over the “Nature”

Many other places I have been to have excellent maps on site, but trying to find them online New Zealand Birds Onlinerendering nothing but disappointments. The New Zealand's Department of Conservation is the ONE STOP ONLY for everything regarding outdoor activities on New Zealand.

New Zealand Birds Online, there is everything you ever wish to know about the birds on New Zealand. Nothing less than fantastic. Click HERE to down load Checklist of the birds of NZ from New Zealand Birds Online web page

One of the best web pages I have ever seen when it comes to birding. All the information you can ever ask for and a ONE STOP for all your needs before going bird watching on New Zealand. Range maps, sounds, information and bird lists, everything you need.

New Zealand Birds Online

Bird watching

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