Last updated 13:06 08/09/2014
Twenty-eight South Island saddlebacks (tieke) - among the world's rarest birds - have been released onto Adele Island in Abel Tasman National Park.
The saddleback came close to extinction in the 1960s and today there are about 650, all on island sanctuaries. The bird belongs to an ancient group that includes the endangered kokako and the extinct huia.
The release marked a major milestone for the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, which has been working with the Department of Conservation (DOC) to make the island a predator-free sanctuary since the trust's formation in 2007.
In 2009 South Island robins were introduced onto the island and they have been thriving, with some migrating to adjacent Fisherman's Island.
Before the 50 guests at Friday's release set foot onto the island, DOC's Martin Rodd asked everyone on board the Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle boat Crusader to be quiet so they could hear the songs of the birds on the islands. He said the saddlebacks would be adding their song to the chorus.
The birds had been captured over the last four days from a population of about 300 on Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds by a team of six. They used mist nets and recorded birdsong to trap the birds, who were then flown to Adele Island by helicopter.
When their boxes were opened, the birds - which resemble tui with a distinctive orange "saddle" on their backs - immediately flew into the bush canopy and their piercing call could soon be heard.