Thursday, June 09, 2011

Miromiro, the tomtit



There is a rumour of a tomtit in Greytown. Perhaps a black fantail missing its tail? Difficult to know without a photograph and sightings may be so fleeting that mistakes are made. However, though not likely, it is possible, as there are tomtits close by in the bush in the Waiohine Gorge.

Tomtits are bush birds, not known to frequent towns, but with the storms of late they may have blown into town or just found their way down the Waiohine River. Bellbirds were late in finding a home in our suburbs so it is possible that tomtits could follow their path. There seems to me to be a curious segregation between our endemic birds and the introduced birds we find in our gardens, which by and large shun the bush. Except for the Tui, the bellbird, and Kereru, our endemic birds such as the robin, tomtit, stitchbird, tieke, kakariki, rifleman and Kiwi, shun our presence and stay in the bush. Would that they could find their way into our gardens.

There are five sub-species of Miromiro, the tomtit; North Island tomtit, toitoi, South Island tomtit, macrocephala, Chatham Island tomtit, chathamensis, Snares Island tomtit, dannefaerdi, and Auckland Island tomtit, marrineri.

Our bird, the North Island tomit, the male is a distinctive black and white, with a black head and a white spot above the bill, black upperparts and upper breast, white underparts, and a white wing bar and sides. Its mate is a dull grey and brown and is not so often seen as the male.

The male tomtit has been described as having a cheery little song which he repeats without much variation at frequent intervals, The call notes of both are the more notable, being loud and piercing and repeated rapidly three or four times with widely–opened bill. To hear them suddenly after a long silence in the bush may be quite disturbing. Maori had many superstitions regarding this bird of Maui.