An Introduction to Bird Watching in New Zealand
New Zealand’s most famous bird is undoubtedly the kiwi. After all, it’s our iconic national bird and bears the name by which New Zealanders all around the globe are known. But there’s so much more to bird watching in New Zealand than just searching for that elusive kiwi. With an array of native terrestrial birds, flightless birds and seabirds, the keen nature lover can see something new each day.
Bird species of New Zealand
New Zealand is home to hundreds of terrestrial bird species, many of which are found only in NZ. Some of the more famous land–based birds you can find include: the tui, known for its beautiful warbling song and distinctive markings. The heavy–set kereru (wood pigeon) with its gorgeous purple and green colouring can often be seen — and heard — flapping between trees in the warmer months as it struggles to stay in flight after gorging on summer fruits. The cheeky kea is the world’s only alpine parrot, known for its high intelligence and inquisitive nature. Rare species include the kakapo (the world’s largest parrot), the quick–running weka (like the kakapo, it’s flightless), and of course, all five species of the famous kiwi.
By the Sea
If we’re talking about seabirds, the first to come to mind might be a penguin. And there’s no fewer than 13 different species that call New Zealand home. The korora (little blue penguin) is the world’s smallest and can be found on coastlines all over the South Island. The rare yellow–eyed penguin and Fiordland crested penguin are found only in NZ. Skuas and gannets patrol the skies above rocky coastal areas, while you might need to go a little further out to see to find the majestic albatross spreading its giant wings.
Looking for a birdwatching tour that takes care of the planning for you? Here’s a couple of our favourite options.
Farewell Spit Eco Tours
At the top of the South Island lies Farewell Spit, a 35km bird sanctuary. Tours are available departing from Collingwood to visit the local gannet colony as well as exploring highlights like Fossil Point, where you’ll see oystercatcher birds strutting their long legs on the beach before heading to the northernmost point on the South Island, Cape Farewell. It’s places like Farewell Spit that remind you that you’re in the untouched world.
Based in the Hawke’s Bay’s stunning Cape Kidnappers, Gannet Safaris offer a range of tours which let you travel in comfort to the gannet colony, while you visit a working farm and one of NZ’s most beautiful golf courses along the way. Cape Kidnappers is home to the largest colony of gannets in the world, with over 20,000 of these remarkable birds on display. With a wingspan of up to 2 metres, seeing the gannets in flight really is a sight to behold.