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Order - Passeriformes Species Notiomystis cincta .Maori name - hihi Status endemic; restricted; resident
Recognition - Length about 19 cm. Males are easily recognized by their yellow-bordered black breasts and a conspicuous plume of white above and behind each eye. Females are mainly drab grey, with narrowly streaked greyand-dingy-white breasts.
Distribution - Originally, the stitchbird was confined to the North Island, where it seems to
have been common and widespread, but as early as 1885 it was virtually extinct, and for
decades survived only on Little Barrier Island. More recently it has been translocated by
wildlife authorities to Hen, Cuvier and Kapiti Islands.
Habits - Stitchbirds are conspicuous, active and aggressive, and they frequently cock their tails. Common
within their surviving habit, they inhabit all types of native forest and scrub, especially those with an
understorey of dense shrubbery. They also forage in flowering coastal flax.
They are sedentary, strongly territorial and apparently form permanent pairs.
Males utter a soft warbling song and a brisk three-note whistle, but the most distinctive call, uttered by both sexes, is the dry sti-tch from which the bird gets its name. Like the tui and the bellbird, stitchbirds play an important role in native forest ecology, pollinating and spreading the seeds of many native shrubs. In earlier days the male’s plumage was valued by the Maori for decorating ceremonial cloaks.
Food - The stitchbird relies heavily on the nectar of various native flowers such as puriri, kohekohe and
pohutukawa, supplemented by berries and small insects gleaned mainly from foliage.
Breeding - Breeding begins in October, when the female builds a feather-lined cup-shaped nest of twigs, rootlets and stems in a cavity in a tree, 2 m or more from the ground. Little is known of the details of
nesting, but four eggs make up the usual clutch, and the female incubates alone while her mate defends the territory. Later, both parents rear the chicks, and continue to feed them for a week or so after they have fledged and left the nest.
About the authors:
Rod Morris’s wildlife photography, http://www.rodmorris.co.nz, has featured internationally in magazines, books and films to wide acclaim. He is a regular contributor to both New Zealand Geographic and Forest & Bird magazines. For 25 years he was a wildlife film maker for Natural History New Zealand Limited. He now divides his time between photographing wildlife in some of the world’s most exotic locations and running his wildlife picture agency
An experienced writer and zoologist, Terence Lindsey has travelled widely within New Zealand and written extensively on the wildlife of New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia and elsewhere in the south-western Pacific region over the past 40 years. In addition, he has written, edited and produced a wide range of books, articles and encyclopedia entries for leading natural history publishers around the world, as well as directed and scripted a number of wildlife documentaries for television. His most recent book is on the natural history of albatrosses. Though born in England, he was raised and educated in Canada, and currently lives in Newcastle, New South Wales.