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Notiomystis cincta

Photo by Damian Davalos (Flickr)

Common name:
stitchbird (en); melífago-hihi (pt); méliphage hihi (fr); hihi (es); hihi (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Meliphagidae

Once common throughout the North Island of New Zealand and in several offshore islands, the stitchbird in now only found naturally in Little Barrier Island, with small translocated populations also on the islands of Kapiti and Tiritiri Matangi and also in Karori Wildlife Sanctuary and Maungatautari on mainland North Island, as a result of conseration efforts.

These birds are 18 cm long and weigh 30-40 g.

The stitchbird is found in a variety of temperate forest habitats, requiring mature forests with plenty of tree holes for nesting. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 750 m.

They feed on the nectar of various flowers, as well as various fruits, insects and other invertebrates.

Stichbirds can be socially monogamous, or form breeding groups where 2 male and 2 females breed in the same territory. There are also high levels of extra-pair parentage. They breed in September-March. The nest in a tree hole, where they build a bowl-shaped net with twigs, grass and fern rhizomes. The female lays 3-5 eggs, which she incubates alone for about 15 days. Both parents feed the chicks, which fledge about 30 days after hatching.

Conservation:IUCN status – VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a very small breeding range and a global population estimated at just 3.000-4.500 individuals. There is no detailed information on population trends, but it believed to be declining. The stitchbird became extinct on the North Island mainland, probably due to the introduction of black rats Rattus rattus, avian desease and probably also deforestation in parts of its original range. Conservation efforts lead to the translocation of individuals into two offshore islands and a couple of areas in North Island but they appear to require large expanses of mature forest to survive which represents a major hurdle to conservation efforts.

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