Petroica macrocephala

Physical Description

The Tomtit is a small passerine bird with distinctive plumage and markings. It has a compact body, a round head, and a relatively large head compared to its body size. The males and females have different colouration. Males have a black head and upper body with a white belly, while females have a grey-brown head and upper body with a pale yellow belly.

Habitat and Range

Tomtit are native to New Zealand and can be found throughout the country, including forests, shrublands, and alpine habitats. They are adaptable birds and can be seen in various environments, from lowland forests to subalpine regions. They often inhabit areas with dense vegetation and tree cover.

Feeding Habits

Tomtit are insectivorous birds, primarily feeding on insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. They have a quick and agile flight, allowing them to catch flying insects mid-air. They also forage on tree trunks and branches, gleaning insects from the bark. In addition to insects, they may consume nectar, berries, and seeds.

Breeding and Nesting

Tomtit breed during the New Zealand summer, forming monogamous pairs. They build cup-shaped nests in tree hollows, crevices, or cavities in rocks or buildings. The female lays a clutch of eggs, and both parents participate in incubation and raising the chicks. The male often helps with feeding the young.

Conservation Status

The Tomtit is not currently classified as a threatened species. However, certain subspecies, such as the South Island Tomtit (Petroica macrocephala macrocephala), have experienced declines in some regions due to habitat loss and predation by introduced mammals. Conservation efforts focus on protecting their habitats and controlling invasive predators.

Trees and Plant Preferences

Tomtit can be found in various forested habitats, where they rely on native trees and shrubs for foraging and nesting. They are often associated with podocarp and beech forests. They may be attracted to various native tree species, including totara, rimu, kahikatea, mataī, and various shrubs that provide food sources and nesting sites.

Interesting Facts

  • The Maori name "Miromiro" refers to the fluttering and acrobatic flight of the Tomtit.
  • The male Tomtit has a particular song consisting of a series of clear, high-pitched notes.
  • Tomtits are known for their bold and curious behaviour, often approaching humans in search of food.
  • They have a wide distribution across New Zealand, with variations in plumage and colouration among different subspecies.
  • The Tomtit plays a role in native forest ecosystems by feeding on insects, contributing to pest control.