Stewart Island/Rakiura (commonly called Stewart Island) is the third-largest island of New Zealand. It lies 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of the South Island, across the Foveaux Strait. Its permanent population is 381 people as of the 2013 census.
Although the clay soil is not very fertile, the high rainfall and warm weather mean that the island is densely forested throughout. The trees are thought to have become established here since the last ice age from seeds brought across the strait by seabirds, which would explain why the beech trees that are so common in New Zealand, but whose seeds are dispersed by the wind rather than birds, are not found on Stewart Island.
There are many species of birds on Stewart Island/Rakiura that have been able to continue to thrive because of the relative absence of the cats, rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and other predators that humans brought to the main islands. There are even more species of birds, including huge colonies of sooty shearwater and other seabirds, on The Snares and the other smaller islands offshore. The birds of Stewart Island include weka, kākā, albatross, the flightless Stewart Island kiwi, silvereyes, fantails, and kererū. The endangered yellow-eyed penguin has a significant number of breeding sites here while the large colonies of sooty shearwaters on the offshore Muttonbird Islands, are subject to muttonbirding, a sustainable harvesting program managed by Rakiura Māori. Meanwhile, a small population of the kakapo, a flightless parrot which is very close to extinction, was found on Stewart Island in 1977 and the birds subsequently moved to smaller islands (Codfish Island) for protection from feral cats. The South Island saddleback is similarly preserved.