New Zealand Birds to Watch Out For
In a land that has allowed them to evolve away from land predators, the New Zealand birds are fascinating creatures. They are a bird twitcher’s dream and are likely to turn any casual observer into a bird fanatic! In New Zealand, you have the opportunity to meet inquisitive birds, colourful birds, birds singing beautiful melodies and flightless birds that look like they are from the Jurassic age. Take a look at this list of some of the birds in New Zealand that you are likely to see on your travels.
But What About the Kiwi Bird?
As you might notice, New Zealand’s national icon, the kiwi bird, is not on this list. Kiwi birds are extremely difficult to see in the wild due to their nocturnal and elusive behaviour. Nevertheless, it is still possible to see them in the wild with the expert no-how of local guides and in captivity at conservation centres. Find out more in Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand.
Plus, you might also be interested in the 21 Animals and Birds Unique to New Zealand.
Also known as the toutouwai, New Zealand robins are split into three different types: the North Island robin, the South Island robin and the Stewart Island robin. Often seen in New Zealand forests, especially in conservation areas where pest trapping occurs, robins are super inquisitive and will not be afraid to come close. They often follow people, eating insects disturbed by footfall.
Find out ways you can help protect these birds’ habitat in the 10 Ways to Protect New Zealand’s Forests.
Often the key songbird of many forests in New Zealand, bellbirds are plentiful in New Zealand because they are aggressive and produce plenty of young. Bellbirds, otherwise known as korimako, are nectar feeders, so look out for bellbirds eating honeydew up blackened tree trunks and flax flowers during summer.
This small bird is another inquisitive bird that is likely to fly straight up to you and check you out. Tomit males are stark black and white while females are a duller grey-brown. Pairs are often seen together. They feed in the understorey by perching on a branch or trunk and scanning. Once an insect is spotted, the tomtit quickly pounces on it. Tomtits are also known as ngirungiru.
Seen more frequently in the South Island and Stewart Island than in the North Island, Weka are quite bold when exposed to people. These flightless birds are opportunists, feeding mostly on insects, bird eggs, lizards, other birds (usually carrion) and whatever might look yummy on your backpack if you leave it lying around. However, although weka may seem tame, they are wild and need to forage for themselves so please do not feed them.
These small green-feathered birds are named after the white ring around their eyes. Silvereyes, also known as waxeye or pihipihi, travel in large vociferous flocks that you’re more likely to hear first before seeing them. Look out for them in forests or any bushy areas in urban areas of New Zealand where they mostly stick to the tops of the tree canopy. Silvereye are also nectar feeders.
These forest parrots are found in conservation sanctuaries, pest-free islands around New Zealand, as well as abundantly in the wild in forests in Fiordland and Stewart Island. Kaka strip tree bark to expose sap, grub and other nutritious insects that live underneath. These large parrots also make a range of sounds, from harsh “scracks” to melodious whistles.
Oystercatchers, or torea, are seen along many of the beaches of New Zealand, often seen in pairs. Be careful as you walk along the beaches, as oystercatchers lay their speckled eggs in a nest of scraped out sand. Oystercatchers defend their nest vigorously and are known to lead predators away with a broken wind display.
These acrobatic insect-eaters are probably the bird you’re most likely to see in New Zealand out of every bird on this list. The fantail, also known as a piwakawaka, may dart around you as you are walking in the forests or even in parks in urban areas. While it might look like they are being friendly, it’s actually opportunism – the fantail is trying to catch flying insects you disturb as you walk.
One of the key songbirds of the New Zealand forests, and often mistaken for the bellbird and vice versa, tui are relatively numerous and seen in many forests across the whole of New Zealand. They are easily identifiable by the tuft of white feathers on their chest. Tui aggressively chase other birds away from their food, which consists of nectar, fruit and insects. Tui are important for the New Zealand ecosystem, spreading seeds and pollinating plants as they feed from plant to plant.
Larger than your average street pigeon, New Zealand woodpigeons or kereru, have shimmering green feathers. If you don’t see a woodpigeon swooping or diving through the gaps in the forest, then you might just hear the whooshing and flapping of their flight. They are noisy fliers, which they use to communicate with other woodpigeons.
Learn more fun facts in the 10 Things You Did Not Know About New Zealand Wildlife.