Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Nests are built with leaves, finely shredded grass and feathers, with feathers being laid most thickly on the bottom of the nest, creating a comfortable cushion for the chicks. The reproductive biology of this bird is poorly understood, but pairs are known to breed between October and February, and both parents are thought to care for and feed the growing chicks (2). The South Island wren is primarily insectivorous, feeding on creatures such as moths, grasshoppers, spiders and worms, but will also occasionally take fruits and seeds from alpine vegetation (2) (3).
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Description

The South Island wren is a small but robust alpine bird with a very short tail, rounded wings, and long legs and toes (2) (3). While the male's plumage is a dull green colour above, grey-brown below and yellow on the flanks, the female is more olive-brown in colour. This charming bird has an unusual habit of vigorously bobbing up and down (3).
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Distribution

Range Description

Xenicus gilviventris is endemic to New Zealand. Once found in the North Island prior to European settlement, it is now restricted to the South Island, where it ranges from north-west Nelson, down through Westland and the Southern Alps, to Fiordland (Heather and Robertson 1997). It was described as locally common (Heather and Robertson 1997), but its distribution is fragmented, and a recent analysis of sightings indicates that about 20% of known localities have had no sightings in the past 20 years (P. Gaze per R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005). Its population is estimated to number fewer than 10,000 individuals (R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005). Its range continues to decline (Michelsen-Heath and Gaze in press) and a 40% decline in abundance over a 20-year period occurred in the Murchison mountains (Willians 2007).

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Range

High mts. of South I. (New Zealand).
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Range

As its common name implies, the South Island wren is endemic to the South Island of New Zealand, although it was formerly also found in the North Island before European colonisation. Fragmented populations now remain only in the South Island, from north-west Nelson, down through Westland and the Southern Alps, to Fiordland (3).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Populations are confined to alpine and subalpine habitat, on mountain ranges and in valleys above the timberline, between c.920 m and 2,900 m (mostly 1,200 to 2,400 m). It inhabits rocky slopes, including talus, open scree, glacial moraine and rocky outcrops, usually vegetated with alpine and subalpine low shrublands. It nests among loose rock or debris, on bluffs or rocky ledges, always close to vegetation. It is insectivorous, but will occasionally take fruits and seeds from alpine vegetation (Higgins et al. 2001). Flight is relatively weak, although birds still range over extensive areas of steep mountain terrain (R. Hay in litt. 1999).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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The South Island wren is the only 'true' alpine bird in New Zealand, both living and breeding in alpine and subalpine habitat all year round (3) (4). This species inhabits the rocky slopes of mountains and valleys above the timberline, between 920 m and 2,900 m above sea level, which are usually vegetated only with alpine and subalpine low shrublands. Nests are built among loose rock or debris, or on rocky ledges, always close to vegetation (3).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
C1+2a(i)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Gaze, P., Hay, R. & Hitchmough, R.

Justification
This species has a small and fragmented population which is estimated to be undergoing a decline owing to heavy nest predation. It is therefore considered Vulnerable.


History
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
  • Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
  • Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
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