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  • Writer's pictureRose Parsons

Birds of New Zealand’s natural world

Banded dotterel, tūturiwhatu. Endemic and nationally vulnerable.

Although the most common small plover in New Zealand with an estimated population of 50,000 birds this species is declining. One of its greatest predators is hedgehogs who can smell the eggs of a nesting banded dotterel from many metres away. Habitat change brought about by cultivation of farms and vineyards could also have removed many of the dotterels favorite nesting sites.

I have noticed that the parent birds will lure potential predators away from its chicks, acting as if injured.

It was given protection from widespread game hunting in 1908.

Bartailed godwit, kuaka. Native and declining.

For Maori they were birds of mystery, believed to accompany spirits of the departed back to the homeland of Hawaiki. Around 90,000 birds start to arrive in New Zealand from September. These birds have completed a miraculous 8-9 day non stop flight from Alaska. They return via the Yellow Sea, China in March. By this time they have developed their beautiful rufus breeding plumage. Non breeding juveniles stay in New Zealand over winter.

Black fronted tern, tarapirohe. Endemic and Nationally Endangered.

Black-fronted terns feed on emerging nymphs and small fish in waterways or in nearby fields or river flats on earthworms, grass grub larvae. They can be seen following tractors cultivating fields. We have a pair who we know return each year to be hand feed the unwanted by catch of onion fish from whitebait nets in the lower Opawa River.

Nesting on the ever changing environment of a limited number of South Island braided rivers, attempts to carry out conservation measures to increase their population has had limited results.

Black swan, kakīānau. Native and not threatened.

Black swan were deliberately reintroduced to New Zealand from Melbourne, Australia. Also found on Chatham Islands.

Black swans are common, about 50,000 were estimated in 2011. Swans have been known to eat pastured near lakes and ponds making them unpopular with some farmers. At the Wairau Lagoon it was common practice for swan eggs to be collected by local children for cakes and to control their numbers.

Caspian tern, taranui. Native and nationally vulnerable.

A large tern with a wing span of about 1 metre. Much like the gannet, the Caspian terns hunting method is to fly up to 15 m above the surface of the water, then diving steeply on to fish, often becoming completely submerged in the process. It is a stunning sight especially when it is successful!

They are a territorial bird, bold enough to scare off dogs and humans that they feel are threatening their domain by swooping down on them with a harsh cry.

Fernbird, mātātā. Endemic and declining.

Many local populations have been lost due to drainage of wetlands and conversion to pasture, combined with predation by introduced mammals. Fernbirds are poor fliers; they typically scramble through dense vegetation much like mice, though occasionally fly short distances with their tail hanging down, just above the vegetation.

Their behaviour during the breeding season is territorial, the human voice is enough to make the birds give their distinctive call ‘u-tick’. A duet by the male and female birds. They can be curious but are more often secretive.

Glossy ibis. Native and a vagrant.

A regular vagrant visitor to New Zealand, the glossy ibis is widely distributed throughout most warm temperate and tropical regions of the world. It is common throughout much of southern Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Atlantic and Caribbean region of the Americas.

A beautiful bird in breeding plumage, the ibis is associated with Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Seven individuals are currently living in and around our protected wetland. We are waiting to see if breeding might take place.

For bird tours by kayak to see these and over ninety species of New Zealand bird click here

For personal guided bird tours by vehicle please contact us for a quote.

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