Mohoua ochrocephala 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Mohouidae

Scientific Name: Mohoua ochrocephala (Gmelin, 1789)
Common Name(s):
English Yellowhead
Taxonomic Source(s): Turbott, E.G. 1990. Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.
Identification information: 15 cm. Small, yellow bird with bright yellow head. Male, bright yellow head, underparts. Yellowish-brown upperparts. Female and juvenile similar, but crown, nape more brown. Similar spp. Introduced Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella has reddish-brown upperparts streaked with black, prefers open country. Voice Male song canary-like. Hints Often associate in noisy feeding flocks high in canopy.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A1be ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Grant, A., Hitchmough, R. & O'Donnell, C.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Harding, M., Khwaja, N., McClellan, R. & Taylor, J.
This species is listed as Endangered because its very small population has recently undergone very rapid population declines following stoat and rat irruptions, and some subpopulations have been extirpated. Within its very small and declining range, remaining unmanaged populations are becoming increasingly fragmented. However, successful translocations to safe offshore islands have occurred, and the majority of the mainland range is now subject to predator control measures. Conservation management has now led to the population being stable and predicted to increase by 10% in future.  If the population remains stable or increasing, the species will qualify for downlisting in future.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Mohoua ochrocephala is endemic to New Zealand where it was formerly widespread in the South and Stewart Islands. It has disappeared from 75% of its former range since the arrival of Europeans and introduced predators (O'Donnell 1996, O'Donnell et al. 1996), and is now extinct on Stewart Island (although reintroduced to nearby Ulva and Whenua Hou), and has disappeared from several areas of large, unmodified forest on the South Island (O'Donnell 1996). Mainland strongholds are in the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks, with c.10 other small, fragmented populations (Elliott and O'Donnell 1988). The total population numbers less than 5,000 individuals (A. Grant per R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005), mostly in Fiordland, and is declining rapidly at unmanaged sites, being also subject to severe fluctuations (Heather and Robertson 1997, R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005, C. O'Donnell in litt. 2016). However, the majority of the mainland range is now managed to control predator numbers. During 1982-1993, out of 14 monitored populations, one became extinct, five seriously declined (three to the verge of extinction), one increased and seven did not change significantly. The species was also seriously affected by rat irruptions in 1999-2000, with two populations undergoing local extinction and three more having significant population crashes. However, populations have now been established on ten offshore islands, and these appear to be doing well (C. O'Donnell in litt. 2016)

Countries occurrence:
New Zealand
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:115000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1200
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population in 2005 was estimated to number 1,000-2,499 mature individuals (A. Grant per R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005). This equated to 1,500-3,749 individuals in total, rounded to 1,500-4,000. In 2016, the total population was estimated at around 5,000 birds, with 2,000 of these in secure offshore island populations (Elliott 2013, O'Donnell in litt. 2016). The overall population decline has therefore ceased, and if it continues to be stable or increasing, the species may qualify for downlisting in future.

Trend Justification:  The species's population is estimated to be experiencing a very rapid population decline (A. Grant per R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1000-3333Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:YesPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:1-89

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Its preferred habitat is lowland red beech Nothofagus fusca forest on river terraces (Heather and Robertson 1997), although it was once present in podocarp/hardwood forests (Elliott 1996). It is primarily insectivorous, but occasionally feeds on fruit when in season. It nests in small cavities in large, old trees (Elliott et al. 1996). It usually lays three eggs in two clutches per season (Elliott 1996). Its life expectancy is five years, although two wild birds are at least 16 years old (C. O'Donnell in litt. 1999).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):7
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Approximately every four to six years, Nothofagus trees produce prolific seeds, and insect, then mouse, then stoat Mustela erminea and ship rat Rattus rattus numbers irrupt. Mustela erminea take eggs, chicks and a disproportionate number of adult females. In such years, breeding success and the number of adult females in some populations can decrease by 50-100% (Elliott 1996, O'Donnell and Phillipson 1996, O'Donnell et al. 1996). The period between population crashes is generally insufficient for full recovery (Elliott and O'Donnell 1988, Heather and Robertson 1997). Black rats Rattus rattus are also implicated (O'Donnell et al. 1996), and caused serious recent population crashes.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
A monitoring programme, initiated in 1983, covers 14 populations at 12 key sites (O'Donnell 1996). Birds have been successfully translocated to ten islands that are free of mammalian predators, including  Nukuwaiata Island in the Marlborough Sounds, Breaksea, Anchor, Pigeon, Secretary, Resolution, Chalky and Pomona Islands in Fiordland, Pigeon Island (Wawahi-Waka) in Lake Wakatipu, and Codfish and Ulva Islands off Stewart Island (Elliott 2013). A captive population has recently been established (C. O'Donnell in litt. 1999).
Predator irruptions are now managed at main sites using mustelid trapping and aerial control of rats using 1080 toxins. This includes work at the Landsborough, Hawdon, Dart, Eglinton, Hurunui Valleys, Catlins and Blue Mountains. Translocations back to mainland are now being undertaken (e.g. into the Eglinton, Hawdon and Hurunui), using birds from the island populations (C. O'Donnell in litt. 2016).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Search for new, undiscovered populations. Improve management techniques for effective predator control over large geographic areas. Improve understanding of factors that impact on populations. Continue development of captive-management potential (C. O'Donnell in litt. 1999).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Mohoua ochrocephala. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22705397A94016621. . Downloaded on 21 August 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided