The tīeke/saddleback belongs to New Zealand’s unique wattlebird family, an ancient group which includes the endangered kōkako and the extinct huia. An adult tīeke can be recognised by a distinctive chestnut saddle of colour.
According to Māori mythology the chestnut saddle was put there by the demi-god Maui. Following Maui’s battle with the sun the tīeke refused to bring water to a thirsty Maui, becoming angry he seized the bird with his still fiery hand, leaving a brown scorch mark across its back.
Last Saturday 40 tīeke were released in Taranaki to join a recently released founding population. The birds were released at Taranaki’s pest-free Lake Rotokare Reserve.
These are the fist tīeke to live in the Taranaki region for more than 150 years.
Photo by Andy McDowall | CC BY-NC 2.0.