GALLERIES > BIRDS > CALLAEOIDEA > CALLAEIDAE > SADDLEBACK [Philesturnus carunculatus]
Location: Stewart Island, South New Zealand
Date: April 20, 2017
ID : B13K3960 [4896 x 3264]
The saddlebacks or tieke are two species of New Zealand bird of the family Callaeidae. Both are glossy black with a chestnut saddle. Its taxonomic family is also known as that of the (New Zealand) "wattlebirds" and includes the two subspecies (one for each main island) of the k
Its common name is derived from the demarcated brown plumage on its back which resembles a saddle. The Maori name of tieke is from the particular sound of one of this species' common calls: ti-e-ke-ke-ke-ke.
There are two species:
North Island saddleback ? Philesturnus rufusater
South Island saddleback ? Philesturnus carunculatus
The saddlebacks appear to be a remnant of an early expansion of passerines in New Zealand and are two of five New Zealand wattlebirds of the family Callaeidae, the others being the extinct huia, the endangered North Island k
Saddlebacks are larger than other arboreal insectivorous birds in New Zealand forests, measuring up to 25 cm (10 in) in length and weighing up to 75 grams (somewhat larger than a common blackbird). They will tear pieces of bark from tree trunks to find insects beneath, which are then dispatched and consumed with their short, robust, and unusually strong beak, but they will also feed on the ground in leaf litter. Their diet is not strictly insectivorous in nature and they have been observed eating fruit and drinking nectar. Poor fliers like their close relative the k
The birds are notoriously fearless and noisy, and would frequently enchant European naturalists in the 19th century with their behaviour. Saddlebacks will nest in epiphytes, tree fern crowns, or holes in tree trunks.
They have a tendency to nest near the ground, and their fledglings will also leave the nest to hop around in a typically noisy fashion on the ground while they build up strength in their wings.
Saddlebacks and people
Place in MSaddlebacks traditionally held a strong place in Maori superstitious belief; their cries were viewed as good omens when they came from the right, and bad omens when they came from the left. Their cheeky nature is reflected in the M
Decline and present day conservation
Their breeding behaviour (nesting near the ground and fledglings hopping noisily around on the ground) make them especially vulnerable to predation from introduced mammals, including mustelids, Norway and ship rats. This resulted in both species swiftly disappearing from the New Zealand mainland. By the beginning of the 20th century, both species were confined to a respective island in the far north: Hen Island off Northland, and in the far south, Big South Cape Island off Stewart Island/Rakiura.
Rats arrived on Big South Cape Island in 1963, accidentally introduced as they escaped from the boats of visiting muttonbirders. Only a swift rescue operation by the New Zealand wildlife service (the present day Department of Conservation) saved both species from extinction by the skin of their teeth, while the rats' predation soon condemned to extinction the local populations of the South Island snipe, bush wren and greater short-tailed bat.
The recovery of the saddleback is considered by many to be one of New Zealand's greatest conservation success stories.