“Stoats, avalanches, unforgiving habitat and food of poor nutritional value, in addition to a natural mortality estimated at eight percent per year – little wonder that some ecologists have been questioning whether the takahē belong in the Murchison Mountains at all”
Derek Grezelwski, NZ Geographic (2012)
Since their re-discovery in 1948, the debate has raged over whether the alpine environment of the Murchison Mountains is the preferred home of the takahē or a refuge – remote from the threats of hunting and habitat destruction and where invading mammals were late to arrive.
In pre-historic times takahē were found throughout the northern and eastern South Island. A separate, larger species was found in the North Island. The distribution of fossils suggests that takahē preferred grasslands near scrub and forest edges.
Where takahē live
The extensive areas of alpine grasslands in the Murchison Mountains are often interlinked and contain many of the preferred food plants of takahē. The birds live and breed in the alpine grasslands, except when winter snows force them down into nearby subalpine scrub or forest.
Takahē use grassland areas on islands. They feed on a mixture of mostly introduced and native grasses. Shrubs, bracken and plants such as toitoi provide cover for nesting and shelter.
Currently, the majority of takahē live at secure sites on six predator free islands – Tiritiri Matangi Island, Motutapu Island, Rotoroa Island, Kapiti Island, Mana Island, Maud Island and three mainland sanctuaries – Maungatautari Ecological Island, Cape Sanctuary and Tawharanui Open Sanctuary.