Alpine habitat

Alpine Environment – An Extreme Habitat For Specially Adapted Species

Alpine habitat at Crucible Basin with view of the Gillespie Pass

Target threatened species: South Island Rock Wren (Southern) / Pīwauwau (*Bird of the Year 2022) and Kea – Nationally Endangered

Rock wren
Rock wren (adult female), Lake Castalia (2018)


Juvenile kea, Crucible Basin

Key focus areas of the Southern Alps include; Lake Castalia, Lake Lucidus (north branch of the Wilkin), the Crucible Basin, Siberia Valley, Gillespie Stream and associated basins. ABT’s rock wren transect monitoring commenced during the 2017/2018 survey season for the north branch of the Wilkin and the Crucible Basin featured below. Subsequent basins such as the north Siberia, Newland and Wonderland have also been investigated to help ascertain the current population status of rock wren within the region.

rock wren habitat ABT
Example rock wren habitat – Crucible Basin Feb 2018


rock wren habitat ABT
Rock wren habitat, North branch of the Wilkin – Lake Castalia Jan 2018

The Pīwauwau/ Rock wren Xenicus gilviventris is New Zealand’s only true alpine species belonging to the ancient family of eight endemic New Zealand wrens of which only two now survive (the rock wren and the forest dwelling riffleman). The rock wren occupies a unique ecological niche remaining above the bush line within alpine basins throughout its life cycle, nesting within rock and vegetation crevices close to the ground.

Female rock wren, Lake Crucible (2018)


Male rock wren (right leg shows an anklet of sloughed skin) Lake Crucible (2019)

Often noted flitting between rocks and boulder fields, bouncing up and down on those long legs whilst flicking its wings. Invertebrates such as moths, flies, their larvae, spiders and the fruit of Comprosma species sustain the diet of this alpine passerine.

Similar to most New Zealand endemic birds, rock wren are particularly at risk from predation by invasive introduced mammalian predators mainly stoat now know to be present and impacting rock wren fledgling success within the alpine environment. The rock wren is also at risk from the impacts of climate change.

Invasive mammalian predator control (equipped with Encounter Solutions Celium remote monitoring) is currently concentrated on locations where remnant populations persist and connect into overlapping habitats of identified whio/blue duck (New Zealand’s ancient waterfowl species) as guided by ABT’s monitoring programmes. Please head to news to find out more.

Invasive mammal (stoat and rat) control within the upper Wilkin Valley


Invasive mammalian predator (stoats/rats/mice) control capture for upper-Wilkin. Showing real-time data provided by Celium Remote Monitoring Technology.


rachel hufton
Sub-adult kea with two juveniles (Siberia Valley March 2020)


ABT Predator control installation (Oct 2018) Siberia Valley. Equipped with Celium remote monitoring technology below (trap fitted with trigger detection node – Upper Wilkin Valley).
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