New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2010) 34(2): 269- 271

Which factors limited stitchbird population growth on Mokoia Island?

Forum Article
Matthew Low  
  1. Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7044, 75007, Uppsala, Sweden

Reintroduction programmes need to be monitored as a way of gauging potential causes of their success or failure. This, in turn, can be used to improve the likelihood of future translocation success. Since the 1990s, stitchbird (or hihi: Notiomystis cincta) translocations have been intensively monitored, with comparisons between two of these projects (Tiritiri Matangi Island – a successful introduction, and Mokoia Island – an unsuccessful introduction) often compared and contrasted as a means of identifying factors important in translocation success for this species. A consistently low adult survival rate on Mokoia Island in conjunction with a study showing a high prevalence of aspergillosis (a fungal disease of the respiratory tract caused by Aspergillus fumigatus) in adult stitchbirds led to this disease being commonly discussed as a major factor responsible for the difference in translocation outcomes. However, A. fumigatus infection rates have never been compared between the two stitchbird populations; thus, population differences in adult survival may have resulted from other factors. One possibility is that survival differences between populations were influenced by differing predation pressures from morepork (or ruru: Ninox novaeseelandiae). Evidence of stitchbird predation by moreporks and the fact that morepork density on Mokoia Island was markedly higher than on Tiritiri Matangi Island provides some support for this hypothesis. It is important that all plausible hypotheses for differences in survival be considered so that we can better evaluate future conservation strategies that target the recovery of this species.