For those of you, loyal readers, when reading the title of this post, assumed it was a review of New Zealand’s female residents – shame on you. If that is what you seek, you read the wrong blog…anyway…
It is quite comforting to come to a foreign land and see birds which are straight out of the UK gardens – all introduced by man – why did we have to interfere? Blackbirds are here looking for worms in the grass. Sparrows are far more common than in the UK and can often be seen flying into cafes to pick up any titbits which have been scattered by a messy human and Starlings still do their thing (although in smaller numbers than the UK). The Chaffinch and Goldfinch are present here and Song Thrushes are also plentiful and we have one, who I have named Canesten, who wakes us up in a morning with song….just what you want at 6am! 😄
So what of the non-UK birds (or UK ones I haven’t seen before)…well there are a good deal of birds that have been introduced to NZ so here we go with pictures and a brief note…wouldn’t it have been great if the giant Moa were still here…but sadly the Maori settlers saw to the extinction of that.
Silvereye – this bird is tiny (I would guess at thumb-size) and so quick that it is really hard to photograph…but I got a great one! And one for comparison versus a sparrow.
Spotted Dove – I was surprised to see a type of dove I hadn’t seen before. Quite pretty and nice of it to pose in the tree outside for me.
Eastern Rosella – an Australian immigrant (introduced) that you see in small groups of 2-3 usually. It is also probably the most colourful resident in the skies. Like many parrots or parakeets…quite destructive…this one was removing chestnuts from the tree quite joyfully.
Takahe – these birds were thought extinct as they were unobserved for 50 years in the 20th century. Like so many flightless native birds, the Takahe now has safe havens on isolated NZ conservation islands so maybe one day there will be hope. They are about the size of a big chicken. Beautiful colours.
Pukeko – unlike the very rare Takahe, the Pukeko is plentiful. Similar colours but a successful and adaptable wading bird (sadly, often getting hit by cars). Like a very large Moorhen (but much bigger) – the size of a large chicken.
Tui – I wish I could play you a recording of the song of the Tui – it is quite incredible to hear because nothing sounds like it. They are also known as the Parson Bird because of the white tuft of feathers on their throat. I have read that the Maori used to keep them as pets and teach them to talk. They look primarily black but have beautiful brown and bluey-green feathers. They are a bit bigger than a blackbird and have a long tongue that reminds me of a hummingbird and have a peculiar noisy flying style.
Kea – these are alpine parrots and are renowned for their mischief. They take delight in removing rubber seals from car windows and windscreen wipers. They steal shoelaces from hiking boots. In other words, nothing is sacred or safe. So far, I have only seen them in a zoo but suffice to say that they are big (probably larger than a Cockatoo). They have wonderful orange feathers under their wings.
Kaka – another of NZ’s native parrots. The Kaka does fly but is of course yet again endangered because of man’s interference and ignorance. The only photos I have are from captivity (of a fashion) as some are from the zoo but others are from a pest free wildlife sanctuary where they can come and go as they please…but at least nest in safety from predators. At first glance they have brown plumage, but there is beautiful red and green colouring. Parrots are loud enough in captivity but in the wild they certainly wouldn’t be a welcome addition to the garden at dawn if you wanted a lie-in!
Kakapo – I haven’t seen one yet, but just for information, this is a large flightless nocturnal parrot. It still has wings but not for flight – they are too heavy to fly. There are so few left in the world (around 100 I believe) that we can only hope that conservation succeeds in providing a haven for them to recover in future and that extinction doesn’t strike once again. I can only wish. I hate what man does to our world at times…and even now continues to do so…here is hoping for conservation success!
Minah – another immigrant. I have only seen the Minah in small groups. They seem to be similar to Starlings in the way they behave (although they don’t amass in the skies) and I would not be surprised if they compete with them which might be why you don’t see too many Starlings in the North. The Minah is perhaps twice the size of a Starling. They always look like they are up to something…perhaps the yellow Zorro-like mask is the reason!
Paradise Shelduck – a bit bigger than a regular duck and smaller than a goose, you tend to see male and female pairs of Shelduck in fields. Here is me feeding Wilson, the much more beautifully coloured female, at the Te Anau Wildlife Park. I started having ideas of a pet duck after this encounter…
Brown Teal – here is one of the world’s rarest ducks, the Brown Teal. Only around 1000 in the wild. Delightful to see this one breeding successfully at the Kiwi Wildlife Park in Queenstown.
Yellow-Eyed Penguin – imagine my joy at walking away from the beach just south of Oamaru having seen one of the rarest penguins in the world emerge from the see and head into the bush for the night when walking back to the car, at the top of the cliffs (yes, you read that right), one very kindly was sat watching me and posing! Such a privilege to see these birds in their natural habitat!
Northern Royal Albatross – at the entrance to the Otago Harbour, near Dunedin, is Taiaroa Head and the home of the Royal Albatross Centre. Other than the Chatham Islands, this is the only place these birds nest and the site is thankfully protected. You can get reasonably close for photographs of the birds. A baby can weigh up to 10kg! Enormous! They have a 3m wingspan (look at the picture zoomed in if you can) and the oldest such bird was recorded here – “Grandma” was 62 when last sighted. That record has since been beaten by a Laysan Albatross in Hawaii.
This little beauty was apparently introduced from the UK but I had never seen one before. about the same size as a sparrow.
New Zealand Dotterel
We saw a pair of these coastal birds apparently defending their nest in a field at Shakespear Regional Park north of Auckland. Nice and easy to photograph with their pausing runs around the field.
This iconic bird is mentioned in my earlier “Meeting a National Icon” post…make sure you have a look…
I will aim to provide another update as more birds come my way (and I can photograph them!) but if you are interested, do please have a look at the NZ Birds Online resource.