Tomtit

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Tomtit

Petroica macrocephala

If you were to genetically engineer a bird for cuteness, you would be hard pressed to outdo the tomtit. 
It resembles a cross between a fantail, Tweety Bird and a panda. Tomtits belong to the same genus as the NZ robin and are likewise endemic to New Zealand. There are 5 subspecies of tomtit, one for each of the following: North Island, South Island, Chatham Islands, Snares Islands, and Auckland Islands. The Maori name for the North Island tomtit is miromiro and for the South Island tomtit ngirungiru. The North and South Island tomtits are smaller than the offshore tomtits.  With the exception of the Snares Islands tomtit, which is all black, male tomtits are black and white, while females are grey-brown and white. The South Island, Chathams and Auckland Islands tomtits differ from the North Island tomtit in having yellow on their breast.

Like the NZ robin, tomtits feed primarily on insects, spiders and worms.  Despite a similar diet, there is little if any competition between the two species because tomtits prefer the high canopy while robins forage on the ground. Having said this, tomtits will sweep down to pick prey off the ground (there are few worms to be found in the high canopy). I’ve also seen them hopping among the rocks of the Brook Stream (and have quite a few blurry photos to prove it).

Tomtits inhabit forests, both native and exotic, and scrubland. They are especially partial to beech forests, which makes the Brook Sanctuary an ideal habitat.  Year round, pairs protect large territories of around 4 hectares in size.  From September to January, they may produce up to 3 clutches, each consisting of 3-6 eggs. Nest building and incubation are jobs exclusive to the female, though both parents feed the chicks.  When they are older, the female may leave the fledglings in the care of her mate while she builds a new nest for a new clutch. 

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