March 4, 2024


The Mohua, or Yellowhead, is a small songbird with distinctive plumage.

Physical Description

The Mohua, or Yellowhead, is a small songbird with distinctive plumage. It has a vibrant yellow head, hence its common name, contrasting with an olive-green upper body and a pale yellow belly. Mohua have a slender beak and a relatively long tail. Males and females have similar colouration, but females may appear slightly duller.

Habitat and Range

The Mohua is endemic to New Zealand and is primarily found in the South Island. They inhabit a range of forested habitats, including beech forests, mixed podocarp forests, and native shrublands. They are generally associated with mature forests with a dense canopy and understory.

Feeding Habits

Mohua are insectivorous birds, primarily feeding on insects and other invertebrates. They forage actively, hopping along branches and foliage, probing into crevices and leaf litter in search of prey. They have a specialised beak for gleaning insects, and their diet may also include spiders, caterpillars, and small fruits.

Breeding and Nesting

Mohua breed during the New Zealand summer, forming monogamous pairs. They build cup-shaped nests made of moss, lichens, and plant fibres, often placed in the forks of tree branches or among epiphytes. The female lays a clutch of eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. Both parents also participate in feeding the young.

Conservation Status

The Mohua is classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their population has significantly declined due to habitat loss, predation by introduced mammals, and competition with invasive bird species. Conservation efforts include predator control, habitat restoration, and captive breeding programs.

Trees and Plant Preferences

Mohua are closely associated with native forests, particularly beech forests, where they find suitable foraging and nesting opportunities. They are attracted to a range of native tree species, including silver beech, red beech, mountain beech, and other podocarps. These trees provide food sources, such as insects and their larvae, as well as nesting sites.

Interesting Facts

  • The Mohua is known for its melodious song, which is often described as a sweet, flute-like tune.
  • They are highly social birds and often form small flocks outside the breeding season, foraging and moving together.
  • Mohua populations have declined dramatically over the past century, and they are now restricted to a few isolated populations in the South Island.
  • Conservation efforts, including translocations to predator-free islands, have been undertaken to help restore Mohua populations.
  • Mohua play a vital ecological role in forest ecosystems by controlling insect populations and aiding in seed dispersal.



Mohoua ochrocephala

The Mohua, or Yellowhead, is a small songbird with distinctive plumage.