Miromiro (North Island Tomtit) Petroica macrocephala toitoi
Species: P. macrocephala
Sub Species: toitoi
Binomial name: Petroica macrocephala toitoi
Common names: North Island Tomtit, Miromiro, Pied tit.
There are five sub-species of P. macrocephala, each restricted to an island and its outlying islands; North Island tomtit, toitoi, South Island tomtit, macrocephala, Chatham Island tomtit, chathamensis, Snares Island tomtit, dannefaerdi, and Auckland Island tomtit, marrineri.
Petroica macrocephala toitoi the North Island Tomtit is a small fully endemic protected (13 cm, 11 g) bird with a large head and a short bill. The male of this subspecies has black head, back, wings (with a white wing bar) and a white belly. The female has a brown head and upperparts, grey brown chin and upper breast fading to white on the underparts. The wingbar and sides of the tail are pale buff.
Tomtits eat mainly invertebrates (spiders, beetles, caterpillars, moths, weta, earthworms, flies, stick insects and wasps) supplemented with small fruits in autumn and winter. A ‘watch and wait’ method is used – perching and scanning an area and then flying to catch the prey, usually on a nearby trunk or branch. Insects are also gleaned from leaves and small branches.
Pairs maintain their territory all year and mate for life. Breeding is between September and January, during which up to 3 broods may be raised. The female builds a bulky nest of twigs, bark, fibre and moss, bound with cobwebs and lined with tree-fern scales, moss and fine grasses. The nest is in either a tree cavity, the end of a broken branch, in a fork attached to the trunk of a tree fern or in a thick tangle of vines.
The clutch of 3 – 6 cream coloured eggs with yellowish purple spots is incubated by the female for 15 – 17 days. The chicks fledge at 17 – 20 days, and continue to be fed by both parents until the female starts renesting while the male takes full care of them until they are independent at about 35 days old.
Petroica macrocephala toitoi northern limit is Whakaangi in Northland were here it is unique as this population lives close to the sea. It is found throughout the North Island in native and exotic forests.
In the Taranaki area this little bird is in the Lake Ratapiko Reserve area and in the Tarere Conservation area which is located 7 km north-east of Manutahi. Access to this Tarere is by boat above the Patea dam, or by four wheel drive along Meremere Road.
The species is not threatened as it has adapted to the changes made to New Zealand's biodiversity.
To Maori the miromiro is one of Maui’s birds and is a significant bird, being esteemed with the huia, the royal albatross and white heron. An observant person is spoken of as –“ he karu miromiro” - “having a tomtit eye” and the Maori called tomtits “scouts” or “torotoro” due to their habit of appearing from nowhere in the forest. He manu aroha te miromiro - “the miromiro is the lovebird” and it had a place in Maori rituals for birth, tohunga, and a new pa.
A male Miromiro with a small grub (A copyright photograph courtesy of Jan Doak)
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