ENDEMIC TO THE SOUTH ISLAND. NATIONALLY VULNERABLE.
DISTRIBUTION: Mōhua live only in isolated populations in forests in the South Island and Stewart Island.
HABITAT: In the 1800s, the Mōhua was one of the most abundant and conspicuous of our forest birds; now it is the most threatened of its genus. The Mōhua has disappeared from large, relatively unchanged forests and is continuing to decline. Once Mōhua inhabited podocarp-hardwood forests. Now they are found only in beech forests with fertile soils where they can find plenty of food. When Europeans first arrived in New Zealand the species was still plentiful, but forest clearances and the introduction of new predators such as rats, stoats and possums all had a devastating effect on Mōhua survival. By 1900 the bird was disappearing from many of its traditional areas.
FOOD: Mōhua are mainly insectivorous - meaning they eat mainly insects or spiders, which they find on foliage and under tree bark.They are also known to eat some fruit.
CALL: Very vocal, with a loud, canary-like song of trilling notes and whistles. Also gives a rapid staccato chatter.
GENERAL: Mōhua adorn a beautiful splash of bright yellow across their head and breast while the rest of the body is brown with varying tinges of yellow and olive. The female is slightly less brightly-coloured and smaller than the male. As Mōhua spend a lot of time feeding on tree trunks or on the ground, the tip of their tail is often worn to spine-like shafts. Mōhua have large feet and strong toes, which are used to hang upside down while searching for food.
When Europeans first arrived in New Zealand, Mōhua were one of the most abundant and conspicuous forest birds in the South Island. Large flocks were commonplace.
Mōhua began to decline noticeably around the 1890s. By the 1960s, the Mōhua had disappeared completely from Nelson Lakes.This trend was repeated elsewhere around the South Island. During the 1980s, it was recognised that Mōhua had disappeared from 75% of their former range and that declines were continuing.
Today's population is estimated at 500. Without recent conservation efforts it is likely that very few Mōhua would remain – the species may even be extinct! Mōhua conservation relies on research, monitoring, predator control and translocations. Although the majority of forests where the Mōhua live are protected, even within these areas populations are still declining due to predation, forest browsing by possums and deer, and competition with introduced birds. The introduced vespulid wasp also competes with Mohua for insects and honeydew, and the wasp may have contributed to the birds' disappearance from beech honeydew forests in the northern South Island.
Establishment of new Mōhua populations on predator-free islands has helped to provide greater security for the species.