Titipounamu, the rifleman
The literature tells me that the nest may be found in some crevice of bark or hole in a tree, a fissure in a broken branch, or a cranny penetrating dry wood. The nest may fit the cavity exactly so that sometimes it is quite large compared with its builders; sometimes it has a domed roof and a side entrance but the entrance hole is the smallest the bird can safely squeeze through and is thought to be probably pretty well vermin proof. Guthrie–Smith saw riflemen’s nests sealed all around their enclosing cavity with moss and spider web. Other nests are described as so minute as to defy observation. The hen only needs a space of two or three inches in which to lay her four white eggs, the smallest eggs laid by any New Zealand bird, upon a bed of feathers and moss. Both parents feed the chicks. Occasionally first brood chicks may help feed the second brood.
Richdale has observed the rifleman nesting behind weather boards of a hut, in a jam tin upside down on a peg and supplies a photo of a nest under a cow cover hanging in a cowshed.
Buller reports that the rifleman may sometimes be decoyed into the open hand by the rapid twirling of a leaf, a trick I have also heard Maori used with a number of birds, including the rifleman. I did not attempt that old trick as I watched them, content to just enjoy their presence and let them be.
The bird's English name, rifleman, stems from a fancied resemblance of the bird's plumage to the uniform of an early colonial regiment. However Stella Anderson says, "because it follows a spiralling route when going over the bark for food the little wren obtained its English name — 'to rifle' means to make spiral grooves as, for example, in a gun barrel."
|Sub Species:||granti, chloris|
8 cm., males 6g., females, 7 g., male bright green above, female somber brownish, head and back are flecked with ochre, both birds are white on their under surfaces and have white eyebrow stripes, short, rounded wings, very short tail, long thin awl–like bill.
The North Island rifleman, granti is widely but sparsely distributed in forests and common on Little Barrier and Great Barrier Islands. In the South Island chloris, the best numbers are in high altitude beech forest and lowland podocarp forest. They like mature Tawa forest in the North Island and Manuka/Kanuka and Hakea scrub in the South Island.
Titipounamu, the rifleman
LINK to Titipounamu Main Page
Song of: — Titipounamu, the rifleman
email: Wim van der Schot
Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.
Oliver, W.R.B. New Zealand Birds, 1955.
Richdale, L.E., Native perching Birds of New Zealand.
Buller, Walter Lawry, Birds of New Zealand, 1888.
Anderson, Stella I., Encounters with Birds, 1982.