First photograph of elusive mātātā captured in Wellington wetland

  • Published Date 02 Jul 2024
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The elusive mātātā or fern bird has been photographed in Taupō Swamp near Plimmerton for the first time – showing the success of restoration efforts in the wetland. 

Endemic to Aotearoa, Mātātā are classed as ‘at risk – declining’ by the Department of Conservation, who say many local populations have been lost due to disappearing wetlands and predation.  

Judy McKoy, Chair of the Friends of Taupō Swamp & Catchment (FOTSC) is celebrating the sighting as a reward for years of clearing invasive plants, planting, and trapping.  

“Rare and wonderful species are returning to the Taupō Swamp, some, like the mātātā, are now being photographed by people visiting and working in the wetlands,” says McKoy.  

“Pest Free Plimmerton currently monitors around 40 traps in that area alone, and multiple FOTSC volunteer planting days are scheduled throughout the year to protect and restore the Taupō Swamp wetlands, so it’s very rewarding to know when our community work is having an impact.”  

The latest bird monitoring survey in the wetland documented nine mātātā between 23 October and 1 December 2023 –  the first official record of the species in the area.   

Greater Wellington Senior Biodiversity Advisor Jo Fagan says the mātātā are a sign of wetland health.  

“The presence of mātātā indicates the wetland is happy and healthy,” Fagan says.  

“Mātātā live in ecologically diverse habitats with rich food supplies, and we are very happy the wetlands are providing that for not only mātātā, but also the pūweto (spotless crake) and matuku-hūrepo (Australasian bittern). 

“Through the Community Environment Fund, we’re able to support incredible community groups who are going to great lengths to improve our native ecosystems, enabling rare species to return to our natural spaces.” 

Friends of Taupō Swamp & Catchment Inc’s planting work is funded by Greater Wellington and Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira through the Community Environment Fund. 

A small brown bird is perched on the blade of a wetland tussock
Updated July 11, 2024 at 4:13 PM

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