New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2017) 41(1): 34- 40

Effect of supplementary feeding on reproductive success of hihi (stitchbird, Notiomystis cincta) at a mature forest reintroduction site

Research Article
Lydia R. Doerr 1*
Kate M. Richardson 2,3,4
John G. Ewan 3
Doug P. Armstrong 2
  1. Department of Biology & Microbiology, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA
  2. Wildlife Ecology Group, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  3. Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London, UK
  4. Present address: Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program, San Diego Zoo Global, PO Box 39, Volcano, HI 96785, USA
*  Corresponding author

Supplementary feeding has proven to be a successful conservation tool for many species, including New Zealand’s hihi (stitchbird, Notiomystis cincta). Previous research has shown supplementary feeding to substantially increase hihi reproductive success at regenerating forest sites, but suggested that it would have reduced benefit in mature forest habitat. Here we report the first direct test of the effect of supplementary feeding on hihi reproductive success in mature forest, using data from the recently reintroduced population at Maungatautari Ecological Island. Eight feeder-using females and nine non-feeder-using females were monitored during the 2012/13 breeding season at Maungatautari to determine how feeder use affected reproductive success (nest success, number of first-clutch fledglings per female and total number of fledglings per female). Feeder-using females fledged 3.7 times as many fledglings as non-feeder-using females in their first-clutch attempts (95% CI 1.6–8.8), and 1.8 times as many fledglings in total (95% CI 1.0–3.5). No feeder-using female experienced nest failure, whereas 7 of the 16 nest attempts of non-feeder-using females failed to fledge any young. The results suggest that, counter to expectations, supplementary feeder use has a significant impact on reproductive success in mature forest habitat. At least for Maungatautari, providing supplementary food in mature forest habitat appears to greatly reduce the probability of hihi nest failure, and increases the number of young a female can fledge.