When North Island robins were returned to Aotea Great Barrier in 2004, 2005, 2009, and 2012 to
Glenfern and Windy Hill Sanctuaries it was expected that a certain number ot them would disperse over the island. What wasn’t expected was that by 2016 the only population of the birds left would be on Hirakimata.
Biz Bell’s team who annually monitor the Black Petrel there reported up to 90 sightings one year.
But this could have been multiple sightings of just a few birds. The Aotea Bird Count in 2021 heard saw robins in three out of five bird count stations.
Two years ago, the Aotea Great Barrier Local Board approved a grant to the Windy Hill Rosalie Bay Catchment Trust to contract bird man Dr Kevin Parker of Parker Conservation Ltd to band some of these birds so data could start to be collected on how well these cheeky little birds were faring on the maunga.
After two years of delay due to Covid, Kevin finally spent four nights in late March on Hirakimata to lure, trap, and band birds with their unique identification leg bands.
Twelve birds were caught, caretully banded, and then released. It is slow and painstaking work as first the birds must be found. Fortunately, robins have a very distinct call and are curious birds often hopping along a track in front of people so are probably one of the easiest native birds to attract.
Once a robin territory is identified a clever net Potter trap is set up with a tasty meal worm to attract the birds in.
The trap is triggered by the birds themselves and then the bird is carefully extracted, and 3 or 4 coloured plastic bands attached to its legs. These bands are unique to each bird and are read top left leg down then top right leg down giving a code. For example, the robin below has the ID code of YM GY or yellow/metal left leg, green/yellow right leg.