South Island tomtit/miromiro
PHOTO: Shellie Evans ©

Introduction

The New Zealand tomtit looks similar to a robin. They are a small bird with a large head, a short bill and tail, and live in forest and scrub.

Highlights

There are five subspecies of tomtit (Petroica macrocephala), each restricted to their own specific island or island group: North Island, South Island, the Snares Islands, the Chatham Islands and the Auckland Islands.

The Māori name of the North Island tomtit is miromiro, while the South Island tomtit is known as ngirungiru.

Facts

  • Although the New Zealand tomtit belongs to the Australasian robin family of birds it is not a robin.  
  • The tomtit is a small bird, about 13 cm long. 
  • They have large heads and short bills.
  • The North Island and South Island subspecies of tomtits are smaller than their off-shore island relatives, weighing in at around 11 g. Birds from Snares Island can weigh almost twice as much as this (normally 20 g).
  • The male North Island subspecies is distinctly black and white, with a black head, back, wings (with a white wing bar) and a white belly.
  • The subspecies from the South Island, the Chatham Islands and Auckland Islands are similar, but have a distinctly yellow breast
  • The Snares Island subspecies is entirely black.
  • Each tomtit pair may raise up to three broods during a season, from September to January.

Sound recordings

Chatham Island tomtit song (MP3, 1,549K)
01:43 – Adult male in Glory Bay, Pitt Island, Chatham Islands.

North Island tomtit song (MP3, 2,808K)
02:59 – In mixed forest near Mount Bruce.

South Island tomtit song (MP3, 1,440K)
01:31 – Adult male South Island tomtit on Rabbit Island, Nelson.

Bird songs may be reused according to our copyright terms.

Threats

Tomtit populations were susceptible to massive land clearances earlier in European settlement and are still vulnerable to mammalian predators.

Populations have stabilized to some extent and they can be found in mature exotic plantations with abundant native understory.

Our work

Tomtit are not threatened, so DOC doesn't actively work with them.

Of course, the work that DOC does in plant and animal pest control increases the quality of whole ecosystems, and therefore contributes to the ongoing success of many common birds, such as the tomtit, as well as ensuring the ongoing survival of our rarer more susceptible species.

DOC priorotises its work to protect the rarer species, in the context of their overall environment. This is encapsulated in the whakatauki (Maori Proverb):

"Tiakina nga manu, ka ora te ngahere Ka ora te ngahere, ka ora nga manu"

"Look after the birds and the forest flourishes. If the forest flourishes, the birds flourish."

You can help

Help protect New Zealand's native birds

  • Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Don’t throw rubbish into water ways or storm drains.
  • Set traps for stoats or rats on your property. Get more information from your local DOC office.
  • Put a bell on your cat's collar, feed it well, and keep it indoors at night.
  • Plant a range of native plants that provide food year-round to encourage birds into your garden.
When visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep your dog under control.
  • Prevent the spread of pests. Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. Stay out of fenced-off areas. Leave nesting birds alone.
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness, and help save forest birds like kiwi and weka.
  • Follow the water care code. Keep water craft speed to 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore.
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