I ♥ Rifleman

Guest blogger: Campaign Manager for the Rifleman & former Chair of the Supporters for Tiritiri Matangi, Simon Fordham

Please note: Because of wind damage, we had to cut parts of Simon’s campaign speech out, to view the full transcript see below

Hi, my name is Simon Fordham. Last February, I was privileged to be part of a team that translocated 31 riflemen from Hauturu / Little Barrier Island to Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

At only 8 centimetres & 7 grams, the rifleman, or titipounamu, is New Zealand’s smallest bird and it belongs to an endemic family of birds. Sadly, five of the seven species in this family have become extinct since the arrival of humans in this country. Only the rock wren and rifleman survive.

The rifleman is locally common as there are many places where they can be easily seen. However, they are now officially classified as “At Risk / Declining”. There are so many places where they used to be yet are now extinct.

Riflemen are not known for flying over open pasture so, as our forests have become more and more fragmented, the loss of these beautiful birds from any block of bush tends to be permanent.

Although New Zealand forests do not boast an abundance of avian species, we do have some of the most beautiful. Right up there is the titipounamu – our little piece of greenstone. Whilst not necessarily obvious when viewed from a distance, up close, this is a stunning bird.

So often species have become endangered, and sadly too many have become extinct, because the early signs of decline have not been recognized. With rifleman, we can act before it is too late.

Firstly, we must put a halt to continued decline by protecting habitats where they are still abundant.

We can increase their range by reintroducing them to forests where they used to exist and are now in the process of being restored.

We also need to raise the profile of this little gem by voting for Rifleman – Bird of the Year 2009.

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  1. September 8, 2009 9:03 am
    Helen says

    Why is it called rifleman?

  2. September 8, 2009 9:29 am
    Alan says

    I would imagine its green plumage reminded early European settlers of the famous rifle regiment of the Peninsular wars, which, unlike most British Soldiers of the time, wore a uniform of green.

  3. September 9, 2009 2:08 pm
    Anne says

    Yeah, a bird who’s name doesn’t start with a ‘K’, to add a bit of a point of difference to the list of nominees…

  4. September 14, 2009 8:39 pm
    rosalind dodd says

    Just hope this liitle bird is here for the future of our heritage

  5. September 16, 2009 3:32 pm
    Helen says

    OMG rifleman is waaaaaaaaaay ahead in the poll so far!

  6. September 22, 2009 2:30 pm
    riflefan says

    Heyheyhey 530 votes, and still miles ahead. But don’t get complacent yet litle rifleman, there is still a logn way to go to the finish line!

  7. September 25, 2009 1:51 pm
    Kanye says

    Rifleman, I’m really happy for you, and I’m gonna let you finish, but the Takahe is one of the best birds of all time.

  8. September 28, 2009 3:13 pm
    Anne says

    So, the grey warbler is as small as Rifleman…??

  9. September 29, 2009 2:53 pm
    riflefan says

    830 votes now – are you SURE this isn’t rigged Simon?

  10. September 29, 2009 3:55 pm
    Anne says

    No!! Never!! Thirty votes since mid-day (yes, i’ve been keeping count!). Compare that with 14 for kea and four for takahe. Hmmmmm…..Good to see the odd lunge forward by some of the smaller contenders. Good going rock wren!
    Must get back to the radio and listen to some more talk-back…

  11. September 29, 2009 4:25 pm
    Simon Fordham says

    I guess the rifleman must just be more popular!!!

  12. October 5, 2009 9:05 am
    Helen says

    The rifleman has now crossed the 100–vate mark – the first time this has ever been achieved by a contestant in Bird of the Year. Not bad for a little fulla.

  13. October 5, 2009 9:05 am
    Helen says

    The rifleman has now crossed the 100-vote mark – the first time this has ever been achieved by a contestant in Bird of the Year. Not bad for a little fulla.

  14. October 5, 2009 10:21 am
    Anne says


  15. October 5, 2009 5:41 pm
    Devon says

    The titipounamu has always been my favourite NewZealand native… i am glad to vote for it!

  16. October 12, 2009 6:44 pm
    Fiona Foxall says

    Re why it was called a rifleman, my husband is a hunter, and he says if you sit quietly they will come out of the bush and perch on the end of your rifle. So maybe early settlers or soldiers called them that for that reason.

  17. October 12, 2009 7:53 pm
    Simon Fordham says

    I understand that the green was the colour of the 19th century rifleman uniforms. Alan’s comment at the beginning of this blog is a bit more specific.

  18. October 13, 2009 12:38 pm
    Helen says

    Watch out rifleman, the kiwi is catching up!

  19. October 13, 2009 2:18 pm
    Helen says

    And kiwi has overtaken the rifleman! This one’s a flying finish fromthe flightless bird.

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