Rare bellbird pair in Tamahere


A pair of bellbirds or korimako in a Tamahere garden are raising hopes that the native birds’ numbers are rising in the Waikato after a decades-long absence.

A male bellbird or korimako in a Tamahere garden (Photo: Dynes Fulton)

Sanctuary Lane resident Dynes Fulton, the Waikato district deputy mayor, first observed the pair – a male and a female – about a month ago and the once rare sighting has now become a daily occurrence.

Male korimako are more often seen on their own so the presence of the female has raised the exciting prospect that the pair might mate in breeding season later in the year.

The pair are appearing daily at a feeding station in the Fultons’ garden, which borders a large gully system. A few years ago, Fulton was delighted to show the same feeder attracting a gaggle of tui.

Not far away, on the same Mangaone stream gully system, Tamahere resident Alison Ewing has also reported a pair of korimako at her place. It’s not known whether they are the same pair as those visiting the Fulton’s or whether Tamahere is host to at least two pairs.

Ewing told the Hamilton Halo project that the pair had appeared after a single bird had been sighted over the preceding year.

A female bellbird was also spotted in nearby Hillcrest in February to the delight of bird lover and Landcare Research technician Neil Fitzgerald.

It was a significant sighting because bellbirds generally stick close to the site they were bred in, Fitzgerald said, and the males generally move further and faster.

“[Seeing the female in Hillcrest] suggests the numbers are increasing.”

Waikato Regional Council senior biodiversity officer Andrea Julian said Fitzgerald’s sighting, which came at the tail-end of summer, was exciting because it indicated the female could have been nesting in the city.

The female bellbird or korimako at the feeding station [Photo: Dynes Fulton]
Bellbirds are shy little beauties and are only found in New Zealand. They’re about 20 centimetres long. Females are dull olive-brown, with a slight blue sheen on the head and a pale yellow cheek stripe. Males are olive green, with a purplish head and black outer wing and tail feathers.

In 2010 a multi-agency programme led by Landcare Research and Waikato University, released bellbirds from Auckland’s Tiritiri Matangi and Tawharanui bird sanctuaries into the Hamilton Gardens, with the aim of re-establishing the birds in the city. But unfortunately none stayed and no bellbirds were seen for several years after their departure.

“However, since then occasional unbanded birds have been seen, about one or two a year, almost certainly as a result of predator control in native forest areas around the region,” said Fitzgerald.

“It appears the sightings in more recent years are part of a natural dispersal of bellbirds back into the city. So we’re very keen for the public to help us track what’s happening with this species in Hamilton.”

To make a report of a native bird sighting go to the Waikato Regional Council’s Hamilton Halo page.

When Europeans arrived in New Zealand, bellbirds were common throughout the North and South Islands. Their numbers declined sharply during the 1860s in the North Island and 1880s in the South Island, about the time that ship rats and stoats arrived.

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2 thoughts on “Rare bellbird pair in Tamahere

  • May 31, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Really good news. Neil Fitzgerald says on BirdingNZ.net that fledglings were seen in that general area last summer as well.

    • June 1, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      That’s great to hear David. The Bellbirds are here everyday most of the day. Seem to fly off when the Tuis come in then return . Lovely to see the increase in bird life. In 15 minutes the other day we counted 21 Tui landings on the feed station. Obviously they were repeated visited but not unusual to see 6 or 7 at once. Such a privileges to see them thriving.


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