Widely regarded as the Sir Edmund Hillary of the bird world, the New Zealand alpine rock wren (Xenicus gilviventris) defy all laws of survival, spending their entire lives hopping and bobbing in rocky, craggy areas high above the bush line where other birds wouldn’t stand a chance. Confined to remote mountainous regions of the Southern Alps and within the Kahurangi National Park, rock wrens are scarcely hanging on in areas where there is no predator control.
One of just two remaining species of the New Zealand wrens, rock wrens or pīwauwau are one of New Zealand’s smaller birds, weighing between just 14–20 grams, but don’t let their diminutive size fool you for a second. They are high altitude specialists, recorded at elevations of up to 3000 m, where snow lies year-round. ‘They are our little avian mountaineers,’ says Dr Kerry Weston, a science advisor for the Department of Conservation.