Duck - Mallard

Duck

Identification

The colouration is very different between males and females however the body shape is unmistakeable. Males have the green heads and light grey/brown bodies whereas the females have light brown heads and mottled brown bodies.

Habitat

The humble Mallard duck is common anywhere near waterways, lakes and swamps. They will often pair-up in urban areas particularly around duck shooting season.

Description

Introduced to NZ from Europe specifically as a food source Mallard Ducks have populated most areas in NZ. Unfortunately they've also negatively impacted other native duck species both through interbreeding and overpopulation. Contrary to their ungainly walking and landing efforts Mallard Ducks are amazing fliers once in the air and have been known to travel huge distances. ... (more)



Fantail (Piwakawaka)

Fantail

Identification

The fantail is a very distinctive small bird with a fan like tail and small wings. They are largely brown-grey with accents of yellow under the breast and white under the wings and in the tail feathers. In flight they dart around like they've had too much caffein but this is mostly to freighten you away.

Habitat

Fantails are predominantly forest birds however they are one of the few natives who can live hand in hand with people and do relatively well. They are particularly visible in spring when protecting their nests.

Description

The fantail is one of the most common of our native birds thanks mainly to unusual predator awareness particularly when nesting. They will often follow walkers, tricking us into thinking the population is far larger then it really is. Don't worry they are after the insects you're disturbing as you walk. ... (more)



Harrier Hawk (kahu)

Harier Hawk

Identification

Harrier hawks are very distinctive and easily identified. They are a mottled brown colour with short, hooked beaks.

Habitat

Harrier hawks are usually found in wide, open spaces where they can easily stalk prey from high above. They are commonly seen eating roadkill on our roads. Harrier Hawks are also found in Australia, New Guinea and many islands in the south Pacific.

Description

Harrier hawks are classed as native birds although the fossil evidence shows they arrived around 1000 years ago. While they have the knack of flying off just before being hit by cars sometimes this doesn't work and sadly carcasses are common. Having said that numbers are reasonable and they are one of the few natives that has actually done well since mankind arrived. ... (more)



Heron - White Faced (Kotuku)

Heron

Identification

A pretty bird with a characteristic white face and grey plumage everywhere else.

Habitat

Common all over NZ near waterways. Frequently seen eying up the local fish population from a convenient vantage points.

Description

Another visitor from Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Caladonia White Faced Herons are easily the most common Herons in NZ. ... (more)



Kaka

Kaka

Identification

Kaka are largish parrots with strong curved beaks. Kaka are similar to Kea in appearance however they are more of a greyish brown colour with a redish underbelly. While lacking some of the intelligence of the Kea they can still figure out how to open jars and remove tent pegs.

Habitat

NZ has two species North Island and South Island Kaka however they are only really plentiful on offshore islands where predators aren't an issue. They prefer lowland thru to mid level forests and do best in well established forest.

Description

The kaka plays second fiddle to the more "in-your-face" and slightly larger Kea. While not common they are doing well on offshore conservation islands and have established themselves well in Zealandia, a fenced reserve in Wellington on the mainland. ... (more)



Kakariki (New Zealand parakeet)

Kakariki

Identification

Karaiki and very handsome parrots around the same size as Tui but much more sleek and streamlined. They are predominantly green with either a red or yellow crown on the head.

Habitat

Kakariki are reasonably rare on the mainland however they can still be seen particuarly on the verges of forest and marginal farmland. They are much more common on offshore islands free of predators such as Kapiti.

Description

Kakariki were one of NZs most prolific bird species before habitat destruction and competition from introduced predators caused numbers to plummet last century. They are now more common in captivity then the wild but can still be seen on the mainland occasionally. ... (more)



Kea

Kea

Identification

Kea are similar to Kaka however they are slightly larger and have a bright green appearance. The call really does sound like Kea although a little screechy.

Habitat

Kea are someimtes found in lowland forest but are most common in Alpine areas particularly whereever gullible tourists can be found. Numbers are difficult to judge as Kea are quite territorial and mobile and you will often see the same Kea frequently during a days tramping.

Description

These are my favourite NZ birds. They are intelligent and curious mixing well with people particularly when they have something they want. They are also excellent thieves taking anything shiny or useful with many a car being ripped to pieces for the shiny bits. I've also seen then pull shiny tent pegs out of the ground calapsing tents, you have been warned. ... (more)



Kingfisher (Kotare)

Kingfisher

Identification

The Kingfisher found in NZ (Halcyon sancta vagans) is a subspecies of a family widely distributed throughout the southern pacific including Australia, New Guinea, Eastern Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia. They are prodominantly blue on both their heads and wings with yellow or white over the rest of their bodies. In profile their most distinctive feature is their beak which is long and tapered.

Habitat

Kingfisher are most common near rivers, beaches and lakes where they can usually be found surveying the surrounds from the highest vantage point. While they aren't often seen they are quite common in urban areas where powerlines are a particular favourite haunt.

Description

The Kingfisher diet in dependant on location however pretty much anything's on the menu. They're quite playful birds and I've seen them actively hunt crabs when far easier food was available. ... (more)



Oytster Catcher (Torea)

Oyster Catcher

Identification

In NZ we have three species of Oyster catchers Pied, Variable and Chatham Islands. They are most easily identified from the thick, straight, 4 or 5 centimeter red beaks and black plumage.

Habitat

Oyster catchers are mainly coastal and estuary birds although they do nest inland in the forest and on farms. They are common throughout NZ.

Description

Oyster catchers are common throughout the world although NZ has three endemic species. In summer they can be found poking around in shallow salt water for a wider diet then their name indicates. The name is more associated with the skillful way they break into oyster shells to get at the soft, edible bits. ... (more)



Penguin - Yellow Eyed (Hoiho)

Yellow eyed penguin

Identification

Yellow eyed penguins are similar to other NZ penguins with a yellow band around the head however they have distinctive yellow eyes and the crest isn't as pronounced as other penguins.

Habitat

As with most penguins Yellow Eyed Penguins are sea birds however they tend to nest in the bush around the coast, sometimes some distance away from the sea up steep slopes. They are found in the South East of the South Island between Oamaru and Campbell Island and some of the offshore subantarctic islands.

Description

New Zealands rarest penguin the yellow eyed penguin is also one of the best known thanks to some TV adverts (mainland cheese) and the conservation effort. They are a major attraction in Oamaru and the lower east of the South Island contributing significant tourist dollars to the local economies. ... (more)



Pied Stilt (Poaka)

Pied Stilt

Identification

Pied stilts are black on the top of the neck and running down the back with white everywhere else. They are a slender bird with an ungainly walk.

Habitat

Stilts are usually found in estuaries or lakes near the coast particularly where the water depth is shallow enough to allow the constant search for food. Nesting occurs either on the coast or on the floodplane of large rivers in the South Island.

Description

Pied Stilts are a relatively recent arrival with fossils only appearing from around 1800 on. They can also be found throughout Australasia although the NZ subspecies have alightly different colouring. Breeding takes place in late winter in colonies of around 100 fiercely protected nests. ... (more)



Pukeko (Swamp Hen)

Pukeko

Identification

The only bird you may confuse with the Pukeko is the Takahe however unless Takahe numbers increase by a factor of tens of thousands its unlikely you'll see them together. It should be noted that the NZ Pukeko is the same as the Swamp Hen found in Australia and New Guinnea.

Habitat

Pukeko are found all over NZ in swampy areas although they also inhabit open grasslands and farms provided water isn't too far away.

Description

One of the unusual and little known facts about Pukeko's is that they are a relatively recent arrival from Australia with fossils only found back to 400 years. They're an active scavenger and one of the few birds doing OK alongside man. ... (more)



Saddleback (Tieke)

Saddlebacks

Identification

Saddlebacks are easily identified by the brown "saddle" on their backs. They are around the same size as Tui and have a similar call.

Habitat

Found on small offshore islands and the heavily protected Zealandia (formerly Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) the Saddleback is a forest bird preferring the undergrowth and mid canopy where their lack of flying ability (they can fly short distances only) isn't as much of a handicap and they can find insects and fruits to eat.

Description

Saddlebacks were extinct on both the North and South Islands early in the 20th century however small populations survived on Hen Island and Big South Cape Island. From these humble beginnings Saddleback conservation efforts have seen the Saddleback florish on many offshore nature reserves and, in 2002, they were finally reintroduced to the mainland at Zealandia (formerly Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) behind predator proof fences. ... (more)



Seagull - Red Bill(Tarapunga)

Sea Gull

Identification

Red bill seagulls are identified by their, shock horror, red beak.

Habitat

Red bill seagulls are clearly most happy near the sea however they can be found considerably inland when foods around. They are often found near rubbish tips. The red bill seagull is found throughout the Southern Hemisphere.

Description

These seagulls are very common in NZ and most kiwis associate these birds with BBQs on the beach. They are very oportunistic and surprisingly tame when you have something they want. ... (more)



Shag (Kawau)

Shag

Identification

NZ has four species of Shag or Cormorant and they are reasonably common throughout NZ. They are a large thin bird with a characteristic "shaggy" look. They tend to be black and white

Habitat

Shags are found around waterways and the coast. While not as common as seagulls it usually doesn't take long to find one sitting on the rocks or in trees drying out wet feathers.

Description

Shags are found throughout the world although the most common sub-species in NZ is the black shag found in Australia and Papua New Guinea. They are renowned for taking fish off the surface of the water but unfortunately also take lures being trolled by fishermen. ... (more)



Song Thrush

Thrush

Identification

Thrush are a very handsome bird with distinctive black dashed bands on the yellowish breast and various shades of grey and brown.

Habitat

Introduced song thrush are common throughout NZ and offshore islands. Originally from Europe they do well in urban environments and can often be found in peoples backyards.

Description

Thrush were introduced from Europe in around 1870 apparently in an attempt to make NZ more like home for the settlers. They were also introduced into Australia at about the same time but have only established small populations around Melbourne. ... (more)



Spoonbill (kotuku)

Spoonbill

Identification

Spoonbills are one of NZs easiest to identify birds as they shockingly have a spoon shaped bill. The colour is white and they are the size of a small chicken.

Habitat

Spoonbills are an estuary bird where they can often be soon wandering through the shallows hunting for small fish and shellfish.

Description

Spoonbills are getting progressively more common in NZ having been established from Australia relatively recently. The first recorded breeding pair was found in 1949. They can be found throughout NZ but generally nest in only eight sites currently. ... (more)



Stitchbird (Hihi)

Stitchbird

Identification

The males have black heads with little tafts of white feathers near the eyes and a yellow streak around the breast with the rest of the body being a mottled grey colour. Females on the other hand lack the black head and the yellow streak is much less defined. Beaks are thin, medium length to help with getting nectar from deep flowers.

Habitat

Stitchbirds are nimble fliers and prefer the forest particularly in the mid and upper canopy where they can easily get the nector they prefer to eat. Unfortunately they are only found on a few offshore islands and behind predator proof fences on the mainland at Zealandia and Cascade Kauri Park.

Description

Stitchbirds are endangered and survive only on a few offshore islands and behind predator proof fences on the mainland at Zealandia (formerly Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) and Cascade Kauri Park in the Waitakere Ranges. The estimated numbers left in the world is thought to be somewhere between 500-1000 adult birds although there is some reason for hope that they are returning from the brink. They are very active fliers although their small size means they avoid bossy larger birds such as Tuis. Predominantly nectar feeders they will however take small insects on the wing. ... (more)



Swan

Swans

Identification

Swans are beautiful birds around the size of goose but with a longer, more elegant neck. They are usually either black or white.

Habitat

Swans are usually found amongst water fowl including ducks. They do sometimes walk around, particularly when a meal is offered however they are most comfortable in the water.

Description

Swans were introduced from Australia in the 1800s however they can also fly across as evidenced by tagged swans in Austrlia appearing in NZ. For this reason some class the black swan as a native species. While they appear very delicate and serene black swans can be very confrontational, particularly around nesting time. Best to keep children under control around these birds. ... (more)



Takahe

Takahe

Identification

Most people think Takahe are similar in appearance to Pukeko however when you've seen them both they are chalk and cheese. Takeha are much larger with a big, strong beak. They are also physically larger and more bulky.

Habitat

Takahe are found only in remote alpine grassland areas of the Murchison Mountains in Fiordland National Park and some off shore islands where populations have been established. Like the Kea they have specifically evolved for harsh alpine living.

Description

Takahe were thought to be extinct till Geoffrey Orbell discovered a population in the Murchison Mountains near Te Anau on November 20, 1948. They have since become a "poster child" for the department of conservation with numbers increasing slowly to the current population of 225. Takahe breed very slowly so they will never be numerous. ... (more)



Terns or Sea Swallows (Tara)

Black backed terns

Identification

Terns are similar to seagulls but can be distinguished by there smaller size, forked tails and black heads.

Habitat

Throughout the world Terns are usually associated with the sea and NZ is no different with the exception of the Black Backed Tern which can also be found in river catchments.

Description

Terns are truly an international traveller although, as is typical of NZ, a few species are found only in NZ. They are playful birds that are frequently seen darting around in the waves on the hunt for food. They are sometimes called Sea Swallows due to there forked tail and aerial acrobatics. ... (more)



Tui

Tui

Identification

Handsome birds with a distinctive white ball of feathers on the neck which stands out from the rest of the jet black body and wings with flecks of dark brown and a greenish sheen. The Tui bird-song is one of the more haunting in NZ being similar to a bellbird but with clicks and clacks towards the end of the call.

Habitat

Tui are predominantly forest birds however they can be found in wooded urban areas in ever larger numbers. They are the largest member of the honey-eater family and often dine out on honey in the Kowhai flowers in early spring.

Description

Tui are one of the better known native birds thanks to their success in urban environments and their distinctive bird-song. They are a relatively large bird who can hold their own against aggressive introduced birds (such as Minah birds) although, like most native birds, their nests are easy targets for rats, stoats and ferrets. ... (more)



Waxeye/Silvereye (Tauhou)

Waxeye

Identification

Waxeyes are most easily identified from the white, cirular border around the eyes and the greenish/yellowish coloring around the head and breast.

Habitat

The waxeye is one of the more abundant native birds in NZ, essentially found everywhere except open grasslands. They are most common in shrubland but do venture into urban areas for food.

Description

Waxeyes are among the smaller native birds and tend to flock in trees with other waxeyes. The maori name Tauhou means Little Stranger which isn't surprising considering they only arrived in NZ in large numbers in the mid 1800s either after following a ship or less likely after a storm blew a flock across from Australia. Despite this they are class as native birds with full protection. ... (more)



Weka (Woodhen)

Weka

Identification

Weka are large birds around the size of a chicken. They look like big light to dark brown Quails with roundish bodies and short tails. The tapering beak is used to good effect for ripping food and fingers from unsuspecting tourists.

Habitat

Weka can be found in most habitats provided there is enough food to sustain them. They tend to congregate in tourist areas where they can get a quick feed however please don't succumb as they don't do well on a human diet.

Description

Weka are large enough to fend off most predators but unfortunatly the chicks are vulnerable. Where predators are controlled they breed prolifically and have sometimes had to be culled as they compete too well against other native birds on offshore islands. The South Island Weka is much more common then the North Island variant. ... (more)



Wood Pigeon (Kereru)

Wood Pigeon

Identification

Wood pigeon are large pigeons with grey, blue, red and green almost translucent plumage above the white breast. They are often very fat, particularly around breeding time however in winter they lose alot of this size.

Habitat

Wood pigeons are forest birds however they also visit peoples gardens when you have some plump, juicy berries. They are found all over NZ although numbers have dropped considerably.

Description

In the bush you are more likely to hear wood pigeons then see them. They make a strong fluttering noise when flying away from people, sounding as if they are having tremendous trouble flying however they are very quiet fliers when they don't feel threatened. ... (more)



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