Notiomystis cincta

Physical Description

The Hihi, or Stitchbird, is a small bird with a unique appearance. The male Stitchbird has striking plumage with a black head, back, and wings, while the belly and chest are bright yellow. The female is similar but with less vibrant colours. They have a slender beak and a small white tuft on the shoulder.

Habitat and Range

Stitchbird are endemic to New Zealand and are primarily found in the lowland and coastal forests of the North Island. They have a restricted range and were once found throughout the country, but their populations significantly declined in the past. Conservation efforts have led to successful reintroductions on offshore islands.

Feeding Habits

Stitchbird has a unique feeding behaviour as nectarivorous birds. They have a specialised brush-tipped tongue that allows them to extract nectar from native tree flowers, such as kōwhai and pōhutukawa. In addition to nectar, they also consume insects, fruits, and honeydew.

Breeding and Nesting

Stitchbird breed during the spring and summer months. They construct cup-shaped nests of moss, bark, and leaves, usually in tree cavities or dense foliage. The female lays 2-4 eggs, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.

Conservation Status

The Stitchbird is classified as vulnerable, and conservation efforts are focused on protecting and restoring their habitat. Factors such as habitat loss, predation by introduced mammals, and competition with other bird species have contributed to their decline.

Trees and Plant Preferences

Stitchbird are attracted to a variety of native tree species that produce nectar-rich flowers, including kōwhai, pōhutukawa, rātā, and flax. These trees provide an important food source for Stitchbird, and their presence in the habitat is crucial for their survival.

Interesting Facts

  • Stitchbird were once widespread throughout New Zealand but became extinct on the mainland due to habitat loss and introduced predators. Reintroduction efforts have successfully established populations on predator-free offshore islands.
  • They are known for their unique song, which consists of a complex sequence of whistles, chatters, and buzzes. Male Stitchbird are particularly vocal during the breeding season to defend their territories and attract mates.
  • Stitchbird plays an important ecological role as pollinators for native plants, as they transfer pollen from flower to flower while feeding on nectar.