The saddleback, also known as the tīeke, is a remarkable bird native to New Zealand, celebrated for its unique appearance and conservation success story. Saddlebacks are characterized by their striking black plumage with a distinctive chestnut saddle-like patch on their back, which gives them their name.
The South Island Saddleback is most famous for being saved from extinction in 1964, when 36 birds were translocated from rat-infested Big South Cape Island (off Stewart Island) to nearby Big and Kaimohu Islands. This was the first time that a rescue translocation had prevented a species from becoming extinct anywhere in the world. The islands served as sanctuaries for the birds, and through diligent conservation efforts, saddlebacks have been successfully reintroduced to their native habitat and can now be found on Stewart Island and islands off the coast of Stewart Island, such as the easily accessible Ulva Island. The population is now likely to exceed 2000 birds.
Saddlebacks are renowned for their melodious calls and energetic behaviour and they serve as a testament to the power of conservation and restoration efforts in protecting endangered species.