Bird of the Week: North Island Tomtit

North Island Tomtit ~ Miromiro

By Cushla Mc Gaughey

Tomtits are the smallest and lightest of our Australasian Robins. When sharing the same habitat, tomtits and robins do not compete for food. Robins tend to feed in the understorey and on the forest floor, while tomtits spend more time in the higher canopy. Renowned for their sharp eyesight, tomtits can spot insects up to twelve metres away. They sometimes catch insects on the wing as well as searching tree trunks, branches and foliage. In autumn they supplement their diet with berries and small fruits.

Tomtits are among the species that have adapted well to cleared land and can be found in both native and exotic forests. Strongly territorial, they will come to investigate any newcomer. They raise their crown feathers when challenging other birds, but with other intruders, including humans, they flash the white frontal spot on their foreheads.

The male is more inquisitive than his mate and so is more often seen. He guards her on the nest, trying to lure any predators away. Chicks learn to recognize their father’s brief, whistled song. Once fledged, they are tempted from the nest on hearing him sing from a nearby tree. He then assumes sole care while his little brown mate builds a new nest for the next clutch of eggs.