Mōhua (yellowhead) in the Eglinton Valley, Fiordland received a boost with the release of 80 birds transferred from Anchor Island in Dusky Sound.

The Mōhua Charitable Trust supported the transfer, working in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DoC) and Ōraka Aparima Rūnaka. On this trip, Ōraka Aparima whānau, John Roberts and his son, Jarden travelled as iwi representatives.

Lindsay Wilson, DoC principal ranger, said that in the early 2000s there were just 18 mōhua left in the Eglinton Valley area. 

“Mōhua would once have numbered in the hundreds but plummeted due to stoat and rat predation. DOC now undertakes intensive pest control in the Eglinton Valley to keep pest numbers low and species like mōhua alive and well.”

In 2010, 69 mōhua were moved from Chalky Island to the Eglinton Valley in an effort to re-establish the species. Of these, 34 birds stayed and settled in the valley, with 62 chicks fledging that year. Since then the population has remained relatively stable, with the survival of young birds staying high (74-81%).

Intensive pest management in the Eglinton Valley – a combination of traps, bait stations, and last year, aerial 1080 – has allowed the area to become a mainland stronghold for a variety of endangered native species including mōhua, long and short-tailed bats, kākā and kākāriki.

The Eglinton Valley is one of the few road-accessible valleys in Fiordland National Park and is a popular stop-off point for visitors to Milford Sound.

Mōhua are particularly vulnerable to predation from rats and stoats because they tend to nest in holes and cavities in trees, making it difficult to escape if a predator visits the nest. Several rats have been filmed eating eggs and adult mōhua on the nest during the large pest plague in 2005.

Mōhua were once widespread throughout the South Island, but their numbers have dwindled on the mainland due to predation from introduced animals and habitat loss. Secure populations of mōhua exist on a number of predator-free islands now, allowing reintroductions to take place back to protected mainland sites.

The Anchor Island mōhua population were translocated from Breaksea Island in 2003. Since then this island population has grown and is thought to be at or near carrying capacity.

John Roberts and Lindsay Wilson.

John Roberts and Lindsay Wilson.

Releasing mōhua into the Eglinton Valley.

Releasing mōhua into the Eglinton Valley.