Tītipounamu are listed as declining under the New Zealand Threat Classification System. It is the smallest NZ bird – fully grown adults are only about 8 cm long and weigh 6-7 grams. Its common name comes from a colonial New Zealand regiment – its plumage drawing similarities with the uniform of a rifleman. It was also pictured on the reverse side of the old New Zealand two dollar bank note.
The South Island Rifleman is found in high altitude beech forests and near rocky outcrops. It feeds on insects on tree trunks and among leaf litter on the forest floor. Although it constantly moves through the canopy and up and down tree trunks foraging, it can only fly short distances and is unlikely to cross open areas. They build their nest in rock cracks, holes in tree trunks and ground cavities. Females lays 4-5 eggs and two broods a year are common. The rifleman has a high-pitched call that can be out of the range of people’s hearing.
It was once common but forest fragmentation from land development means less habitat and isolated populations