The Black Robin

Regan O'Callaghan Black Robin and Archangel Michael Icon, Religious Icon, egg tempera on gesso,


The Black Robin and Archangel Michael

The Black Robin lives in the Chatham Islands off the east coast of Aotearoa, New Zealand and like many birds they have had an immense struggle to survive as a species.   The Black Robin had succumbed to the introduction of pests like rats and along with the destruction of their habitat stood very little chance of survival.  Extinction seemed inevitable for the robins.   In 1980 there were only 5 individual birds left in the world!   They existed on a windswept scraggy rock called Little Mangere Island and of these 5 there was only two females and of these 2 only one was fertile.  Her name was 'Old Blue'.    With the plight of the robins being so dire the New Zealand Wildlife Service had to act quick.   Don Merton an experienced conservationist set in motion a plan to move the remaining birds to Mangere Island and have eggs from Old Blue incubated by Tomtits.  Through trial and error and over a number of years the Black robin population slowly increased.  Today there are about 250 Black Robins all descended from 'Old Blue' who lived to the grand old age of 14 which is a remarkable feat when the average life expectancy for the species was between 4 - 10 years.    Thanks to Old Blue, Don Merton and Kiwi innovation the Black robin continues to be still with us today.

In this icon dedicated to 'Old Blue' we see her take flight as Archangel  Michael the protector of the universe oversees and guards the whole of creation.


Prints are available here