Aotea’s Birdlife

Pāteke / Brown teal

Anas chlorotis
Special facts: The brown teal/pāteke is a small dabbling duck endemic to New Zealand. They are the rarest waterfowl on the mainland. Aotea is a stronghold for the brown teal population in NZ. They are mainly active at night but are commonly seen during the day foraging along estuaries and the waters edge.
Features: Poor flyers, territorial, monogamous.
Feeding: Invertebrates, fungi, vegetation and seeds.
3-9 ducklings: July – September.
Nest: In dense rushes.
Threats: Mammalian predators (i.e. cats, rats and pukeko), habitat loss / degradation (through wetland drainage, forest clearance, and estuary reclamation), domestic pets,
developing human settlement, hunting, road kill, dry spring and summer conditions which reduce food abundance, competition and hybridisation with mallards.
Status: New Zealand endemic.
At risk: Recovering.
Where: Wet forests, swamps, slow-flowing streams, lakes, estuaries and pasture.
Species information:

Photo credit Renee Freeland, Kay Stowell & Taryn Wilks


Botaurus poiciloptilus
Special fact! The endangered matuku inhabits wetlands throughout New Zealand and are found on Aotea. There are fewer than 1000 birds left in NZ. Matuku are an indicator of wetland health because they are dependent on the presence of high quality and ecologically diverse habitats and rich food supplies.
History: Matuku are important to Māori. They appear in language as part of legends, stories, early pictures and metaphor and there are numerous place names referring to them. They were important for food and their feathers were used for ceremonial decoration.
Features: Poor flyers, sensitive to disturbance, pose in a ‘freeze’ stance when threatened.
Feeding: Invertebrates, frogs, lizards and fish.
3-5 eggs: August – December.
Nest: Floating raised platform of reeds.
Threats: Wetland drainage, poor water quality, mammalian predators, reduced food availability.
Status: New Zealand native.
Threatened: Nationally critical.
Where: Wetlands, saltmarshes, drains and pasture.
Species information:

Photo credit Mike Soper

Kererū / New Zealand Pigeon

Hemiphaga novaeseeelandiae 
Special fact! Aotea is considered the stronghold for Kererū, who are a very important ecological ‘keystone species’. As one of the only large bird species left who can swallow large native berries whole (such as the Taraire, Miro, Tawa and Karaka), they then disperse these seeds in their droppings over large distances. Actings as a pivotal means of regenerating our native forests.
Features: Large iridescent blue-green and bronze bird with white chest ‘vest’. Their beak can range from bright red to a slight orange colour and their feet and eyes a crimson red. Measuring up to 51cm from beak to tail and weighing about 650 grams. Mostly heard before seen by the ‘wooshing’ of their large beating wings or a quiet ‘coo’ on a still day. 
Feeding: Flowers, buds, foliage and fruit from a variety of native and exotic plants. They are sometimes known to gorge on too much fruit, which ferments in their belly and causes them to become ‘drunk’ and fall out of trees!
Breeding: A single egg is incubated at a time, laid mostly between September – April. Although breeding has been recorded at all times of the year, and if food sources are good they may raise up to three chicks in a year.
Nest: A platform of twigs in trees.
Threats: Predation and habitat loss.
Status: Endemic
Threatened: Not threatened
Where: Forested areas and gardens, particularly where there is pest control.
Species information:

Photo Credit Bree biederman

Mioweka / Konini / Banded rail

Gallirallus philippensis
Features: Across NZ Banded rails are rarely seen, but on Aotea, Great Barrier Island they are very common and seen often. They are strong but reluctant flyers, monogamous, pairs share incubation, distinctive eye stripe and intricately patterned plumage.
Feeding: Marine, littoral and terrestrial invertebrates, seeds and fruit.
4-6 chicks: September – March.
Nest: Rough platform of reeds.
Threats: Introduced predators, habitat degradation.
Status: New Zealand native.
At risk: Declining.
Where: Wetlands, scrublands, swamps and estuaries.
Species information:

Photo credit Kay Stowell & Windy Hill Sanctuary

Kakariki / Red-crowned parakeet

Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae
Special fact. There are five different species of native parakeet in NZ. Kākāriki are a New Zealand endemic parrot (they are not found anywhere else in the world) and Aotea is home to very small remnant population of kākāriki which can be seen flying amongst the canopy of puriri and taraire in the Okiwi reserve and in the tree tops of Motu Taiko.
Kākāriki can inhabit a range of ecosystems including mature forests, grasslands and scrublands. They nest in cavities of trees, cliffs and even the ground where they lay four to nine eggs throughout the year. However, due to introduced predators invading their habitat, successful fledging has become rare in areas where intensive predator control is not maintained.
Features: Parrot, monogamous, mostly green, strong flyers.
Feeding: Insect larvae, seeds, fruit, invertebrates and flowers.
4-9 eggs: November – January.
Nest: Cavities in trees, cliffs and dense vegetation.
Threats: Introduced mammalian predators, hybridisation, beak and feather disease.
Status: New Zealand endemic.
At risk: Relict.
Where: Offshore islands, tall forests, grasslands and scrublands.
Species information:

Photo credit Oscar Thomas

Takoketai / Black Petrel

Procellaria parkinsoni
Special fact! Aotea holds the largest population of Takoketai with an estimated 1000 breeding pairs. Once widespread, breeding colonies of these large, burrow-nesting seabirds are now confined to Aotea and Hauturu / Little Barrier Island. The main colony breeds on the slopes of Mt Hobson (Hirakimata) between October and May each year. Mature birds spend months at sea flying as far as South America and only return to the island to breed.
Features: Solitary or small flocks at sea.
Feeding: Surface feeding by shallow dives, on squid, fish and crustaceans.
1 egg: October – May .
Nest: Burrows.
Threats: Feral cats, pigs, rats, fisheries by-catch.
Status: New Zealand endemic.
At Risk: Nationally vulnerable.
Where: Great Barrier and Hauturu-o-Toi Little Barrier Island, migrates to the eastern Pacific Ocean (July – October).
Species information:

Photo credit Isabel Mabey

Tūturiwhatu / New Zealand dotterel

Charadrius Obscurus
Special fact! Aotea is also home to the smaller banded dotterel, which has a distinctive dark breast band.
Features: Territorial, feigns injury around nests and young.
Feeding: Marine and terrestrial invertebrates, occasionally small fish, mussels and crabs.
2-3 eggs: July and February
Threats: Egg and chick loss to introduced predators and black-backed gulls, habitat degradation, human disturbance, vehicles and domestic dogs.
Status: New Zealand endemic.
At risk: Recovering.
Where: Coastal dunes, beaches, shell banks and short pasture.

Photo credit Oscar Thomas

Kororā / Little blue penguin

Eudyptula minor
Special fact! The world’s smallest penguin species at an average of 33cm and 1kg.
Features: Loud calls can be heard around nest sites, solitary at sea, must return to shore every two weeks to moult.
Feeding: Dive for prey in waters around 50m deep, shoaling fish, squid and crustaceans.
Breeding: Monogamous pairs lay 1-2 eggs from July – November, pairs commonly reuse nest sites.
Nest: Burrows, caves and rock crevices.
Threats: Cats, rats and dogs, set nets, human settlement encroachment to coastlines, vehicles.
Status: New Zealand native.
At risk: Declining.
Where: Coastlines, ocean.

Photo credit Sarah Dwyer

Kākā/ Bush parrot

Nestor meridionalis
Special fact! Māori named the kākā after its loud call. These large, noisy parrots are often seen flying high above the forest canopy and their raucous call is a distinctive feature of Aotea.
Features: Longevity of 20+ years, strong flyers.
Feeding: Insect larvae, seeds, fruit, nectar, sap and honeydew.
1-5 eggs: September – January
Nest: Tree cavities.
Threats: Introduced predators particularly stoats, forest clearing.
Size: 38-44cm length and 330-400g weight.
Status: New Zealand endemic.
At risk: Recovering.
Where: Forest dwelling.
Species information:

Photo credit Renee Freeland


Special fact! Tūī are unique to New Zealand and belong to the honeyeater family, which means they feed mainly on nectar from flowers of native plants. 
Features: They look black from a distance, but in good light tui have a blue, green and bronze iridescent sheen, and distinctive white throat tufts (poi).

Feeding: Tui diet varies depending on the seasonal availability of nectar and fruits. Their preferred diet is nectar and honeydew, and they will often shift to good nectar sources, such as stands of puriri, kowhai, fuchsia, rewarewa, flax, rata, pohutukawa, gums and banksias. In the breeding season, tui supplement their nectar diet with large invertebrates such as cicadas and stick insects
2-4 eggs: Eggs are laid from September to January. The nest, built by the female, is a rough bulky structure of twigs and sticks, lined with fine grasses, high in the canopy or subcanopy. The clutch is 2-4 white or pale pink eggs, marked with reddish-brown spots and blotches. Incubation and brooding is by the female only. Chicks are initially fed only by the female, but later the male helps to feed them.
Nest: Trees
Threats: Introduced predators, habitat loss 
Status: New Zealand endemic.
At risk: Not Threatened
Where: Can be locally abundant where there is good pest control and flowering/fruiting habitat.
Species information:

Photo credit: Bree Biederman and Kevin Burke

Ruru / Morepork

Ninox novaeseelandiae

Special Fact! The Ruru is a small dark forest dwelling nocturnal owl with its distinctive ‘more-pork’ call at night, heard throughout the country. You may have seen them also silently gliding through the forest if disturbed during the day, or intently watching from the tree tops with its giant yellow eyes! In Maori tradition, Ruru were seen as a watchful guardian of the night from the spirit world. Their alternative ‘creee’ call (not too dissimilar to the Kiwi) was however considered an ominous bad sign.

Features: Small, brown owl with cream spots. Large yellow eyes and talons and a small hooked beak. Females are larger than males, measuring around 30cm in height and weighing around 175g. Their heads can turn around 270°!

Feeding: Small mammals and large insects. Weta, spiders, huhu beetles, cicadas and moths. Mice, rats and even small birds such as silvereyes! They then regurgitate any indigestible material in the form of a pellet. 

Breeding: Up to three eggs at a time, but mostly two, usually between September and November. Depending on food availability, only one chick may survive and the other may be eaten!

Nest: Tree cavities, epiphytes, roots and rocks.

Threats: Deforestation, predators, anticoagulant poisons that their prey has ingested, which can have an accumulative effect over time in their system.

Status: Native

At Risk: Not threatened

Where: Forests and built up bush areas throughout the country

Species Information: 

Photo credit: NZBirdsOnline


Special fact! The fantail or pīwakawaka is best known for its friendly ‘cheet cheet’ call and energetic flying antics. The fantail is one of New Zealand’s best known birds, with its distinctive fanned tail and loud song, and particularly because it often approaches within a metre or two of people. 

Features: The New Zealand fantail occurs in two colour morphs: pied and black. The adult pied fantail has a greyish head, prominent white eyebrows, brown back and rump, cinnamon breast and belly, white and black bands across the upper breast, and a long black and white tail. Black fantails are mainly black, with black-brown over the rump, belly and flight feathers, and occasionally have a white spot over each ear. 

Feeding: Fantails mainly eat small invertebrates, such as moths, flies, beetles and spiders. 
2-5 eggs:  The timing of fantail breeding varies with location and weather conditions. Two to five eggs are laid, with both adults taking turns on the nest through the approximately 14-day incubation period
Nest: The nest is constructed of fine materials (mosses, dried rotten wood fibres, hair, dried grasses, fern scales) tightly woven with cobwebs. 
Threats: Introduced predators, habitat loss
Status: Endemic
At risk: Not Threatened
Where: Its wide distribution and habitat preferences, including frequenting well-treed urban parks and gardens, means that most people encounter fantails occasionally. 
Species information:

Photo credit: Kevin Burke & NZBirdsonline

Ōi / Grey-faced Petrel

Pterodroma macroptera
Special Fact! Grey-faced petrels are a large oceanic seabird, who start breeding on Aotea in winter. There are a few colonies on the island, and local former Professor Dr John Ogden has been monitoring them for quite some time. Their chicks, also known as Muttonbird are still customarily harvested by some iwi as a delicacy between mid November – mid December when they are at their fattest. Locally, Ngati Wai still retains these rights, harvesting in the Mokohinau Islands. 

Features: Large seabird with dark greyish brown plumage, long narrow wings and long pointed tail. It’s black stout beak has a large sharp hook perfect for slicing through prey, and those who decide to put their hands in a burrow.

Feeding: Feeding mostly on squid and supplemented by fish and crustaceans out at sea. They predominantly feed within the top 5m of the water in the daytime. Although they are capable of deep dives up to 20m and occasionally observed feeding at night.

Breeding: A large solitary egg laid around mid June – July. Hatching occurs 2-3 months later with chicks fledging another 2-3 months after that. Chicks come back to the colony around 3-4 years old but most will delay breeding until they are 8-10 years.

Nest: Well lined nest in a long chambered burrow, dug into soil or vegetation.

Threats: Predators in their breeding areas – mostly cats and rats. The chicks may be left alone for some time and once fledged on the ground are vulnerable to predation. Some bi-catch from commercial fisheries.

Status: Native

At Risk: Not threatened

Where: Breeding in coastal forest and scrubland and grass in predator free or pest managed areas. Oceanic feeding grounds.

Species Information: 

Photo credit: NZBirdsonline and Shannon Courtenay

Tītī / Cooks Petrel

Pterodroma cookii

Special Fact! A small seabird which you may be more familiar with their cheeky cackling at night during the spring and summer, as they fly over Aotea from their breeding grounds in the Tasman Sea. Only breeding here on Aotea, Te Hauturu-o-toi (Little Barrier) and a couple of other offshore islands in the country. On Little Barrier where they have no predators, the sound can be almost deafening as thousands of birds can descend onto the island on a stormy night to hunker down.

Features: Small seabird with a grey back, head and wings and white underbelly. Long black sharp hooked beak and black eyes. Long narrow wings and pointed tail in flight.

Feeding: Small squid and some fish and crustaceans. Mostly during the night, but also in the daytime during breeding season.

Breeding: September to April with burrow cleaning starting in September and a single egg laid in November.

Nest: Long chambered burrow dug into the soil in between tree roots in the forest.

Threats: Introduced predators on Aotea such as rats, cats and pigs are the major threat. Other locations are pest free islands. Prior to Little Barrier being pest free, rats took up to 90% of eggs and chicks in some seasons!

Status: Endemic

At Risk: Relict

Where: Breeding mostly in burrows above 250m elevation, or in mature forest in lower elevation levels. Feeding in deep oceanic waters in the Tasman Sea and Western South Pacific Ocean.

Species Information: 

Photo credit: NZBirdsonline

Miromiro / Tomtit

Petroica macrocephala

Special Fact! Much like fantails, Tomtits may come within a few metres of you scanning for small invertebrates on a nearby branch. Sometimes difficult to see, with the males song heard more so. Rarely seen in human modified habitat, they prefer to keep within the forest and shrublands.

Features: Similar look to a Robin, a small bird with a large head, small beak and tail. Tomtits are dimorphic (males and females are different colours), with the males having a black head, back and wings with a white chest, and females being a predominantly brown/grey and white coloration. White wing bars and smaller size help distinguish them from Robins.

Feeding: A wide range of small invertebrates. Weta, spiders, flies, moths, beetles etc. Small fruits are also sometimes eaten whole.

Breeding: Mainly September – February of 3-4 eggs and up to 3 broods in a season. Although a lot of clutches are taken by predators and therefore 1-2  are more common.

Nest: Twigs, leaves and grasses concealed in thick vegetation and shallow crevices.

Threats: Introduced predators (mainly ship rats), taking broods and clutches and adult females on the nest.

Status: Endemic

At Risk: Not threatened

Where: Forests and shrublands

Species Information: 

Photo credit: NZBirdsonline

Toutouwai / North Island Robin

Petroica longipes

Special Fact! Robins take 2-3 years before their mature plumage is at it’s full black/grey colouring. Some retain their faint grey or dark grey colouring all their lives. They are very friendly birds who forage along the ground. Coming within a metre of humans and sometimes even standing on your boot if sitting patiently and quietly!

Features: Small bird with white chest and slightly streaked grey/black plumage, approx 18cm tall with long skinny legs. Adult birds can also display a small white patch of feathers underneath their bill. Males sing frequently, particularly during breeding season.

Feeding: Foraging along the ground and up in branches and epiphytes in mature forest. Diet is mostly invertebrates, supplemented by small fruit during summer, autumn and drought periods.

Breeding: Start nesting in September and incubate 2-3 eggs.

Nest: Small twiggy nest in tree trunk and branch junctions, on tree trunks and epiphytes next to the trunks.

Threats: 19th and 20th century deforestation for farmland initially wiped out a lot of the population, but their main threat now is introduced predators (particularly ship rats) prey on females on the nest and their broods. Populations then become male dominant. When pest control is carried out, populations flourish and the ratio of male to female quickly recovers.

Status: Endemic

At Risk: Declining

Where: Mature forest with a developed understory for foraging and tall scrubland.

Species Information: 

Photo credit: NZBirdsonline

Kōtare / Kingfisher

Todiramphus sanctus vagans
Special Fact! There are 8 subspecies of Kingfisher, confined to the Australasian area. T. sanctus vagans being the New Zealand subspecies. They are well known for their ‘sentinel’ like positions on high branches, posts and powerlines, then immediately diving down to snatch their prey.

Features: Distinctive green-blue back and head. Cream to yellow underbelly and neck. Strong prominent black beak and black ‘mask’ strip from their beak across their eyes. Their ‘keh-keh’keh-keh’ territorial calls are heard often.

Feeding: A wide range of both terrestrial and marine vertebrates and invertebrates. From spiders, weta, and flies to fish and crustaceans, mice and small birds. Aerial diving into water and ‘hawking’ flying prey. Food is swallowed whole and indigestible remains regurgitated.

Breeding: Mating occurs in early September with nest building in October. Second clutches can also be laid as late as February. The chicks give off a distinctive gurgling sound from the burrow once hatched, and spend a lot of time on the ground once fledged. The adults are therefore extremely territorial and here on Aotea, they can be seen swiftly diving at Banded Rails, other birds and even people to assert their territory.

Nest: Nest sites are a range of cliffs, banks and tree hollows. To form their burrows they fly repeatedly into the intended nest site, which is chiselled out by their strong sharp beaks!

Threats: Occasionally caught by cats, but a lot of them are killed or stunned by flying into windows.

Status: Native

At Risk: Not threatened

Where: Forests, river margins, farmlands, estuaries and coastlines.

Species Information: 

Photo credit: NZBirdsonline

Pīpīwharauroa / Shining Cuckoo

Chrysococcyx lucidus
Special Fact! As other Cuckoos, the Shining Cuckoo is a brood-parasite. Their annual Trans-Oceanic migration brings them here in the Summertime, where they lay their eggs in  unsuspecting Grey Warblers nests. They then fly back to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to spend the Winter. 

Features: Small well camouflaged bird, roughly 16cm in height. They are often heard more than seen with their distinctive ‘to-it-to-it-to-it. Do-dididit-do’ whistling call. Iridescent green back with white and dark green spotted head and banded front. They blend perfectly into the branches and foliage around them.

Feeding: Mostly invertebrates, and are able to eat many toxic caterpillars and ladybugs that many other birds cannot, including being one of the only New Zealand birds who will eat Monarch butterflies caterpillars.

Breeding: Migratory birds who come to New Zealand in the spring-summer and lay their large solitary egg in Grey Warblers nests. Known to push the Grey Warlbers eggs out of the nest to accommodate its own, the freakishly large foster child is then reliant on it’s tiny new parent for several weeks after fledgling. Once the egg is laid, the cuckoo has no other parenting responsibilities.

Nest: Grey Warblers nests which are small cocoon-like ‘droplets’ made of twigs and grasses, hanging from branches.

Threats: Not directly threatened, however those that predate on Grey Warbler chicks (possibly rodents) may therefore also prey on the Shining Cuckoo chick present in the nest.

Status: Native

At Risk: Not threatened

Where: Forest, scrubland, farmland and urban areas. Wherever their host species is found.

Species Information: 

Photo credit: NZBirdsonline

Riroriro / Grey Warbler

Gerygone igata
Special Fact! Riroriro is our most widely distributed endemic bird. In a survey between 1999-2004, they were found within every 10㎢ throughout the country! Competing with the Rifleman for the country’s smallest bird, with only a tails length difference and both at about 6g, the Grey Warbler is easier to hear than see in the dense shrubbery where it lives. Well known for it’s beautiful loud song compared to it’s tiny body size, they dance around the trees, often in conjunction with other small birds such as Wax-eyes and Fantails in a group. They are unfortunately subjected to raising their large foster child from the brood parasitic Shining Cuckoo each Summer, but despite this their population is not under threat.

Features: Tiny predominantly grey bird with slight olive back and white underside, approx 11cm in length with red eyes and small black legs and beak. Distinctive loud song widely heard.

Feeding: Insectivorous, feeding mainly on caterpillars, moths, flies, beetles and other small invertebrates. Uniquely hovering while hunting for insects along the canopy.

Breeding: Breeding in Spring and Summer, mostly between August and January. Typically 3-5 eggs and one brood per season. The Shining Cuckoo removes one of the eggs from the nest and lays one of its own. Once the chick has hatched it then pushes the other eggs from the nest to be the only chick raised. The Grey Warbler parents don’t seem to reject the very large offspring.

Nest: Hanging enclosed droplet shaped dome on tree branches, mostly in Manuka/Kanuka.

Threats: No known threats aside from possibly predation by rodents on the nest.

Status: Endemic

At Risk: Not threatened

Where: Manuka/Kanuka and Coprosma scrub, throughout the country in mid-high levels of the canopy.

Species Information: 

Photo credit: NZBirdsonline

Tauhou / Silvereye / Waxeye

Zosterops lateralis
Special Fact! Waxeyes are a relatively recent migrant to New Zealand, coming from Australia to colonise in the 1850s. Seen in sometimes large groups sweeping through the canopy chirping away together on the hunt for small insects, fruit and nectar. Although they can puncture holes in fruit in the garden, they are very helpful in eating aphids, moth caterpillars and flies. Well travelled and often found seasonally migrating about the country.

Features: Small songbird with olive green plumage, grey neck and distinctive white/silver eye ring. Creamy underbelly and little legs. They have a variety of high pitched contact calls and warbles.

Feeding: Omnivorous, eating small invertebrates, fruit and nectar. Frequent visitors of bird feeders, they are lovers of fatty seeds particularly during the winter period.

Breeding: Territorial, monogamous birds who breed between August and February. Laying 2-4 blue coloured eggs in 24hr cycles and 2-3 clutches per season.

Nest: Small cup made of twigs, grasses, lichen and spider webs in the outer branches of trees, ferns and shrubs.

Threats: No known possible threats aside from possible predation by rodents on the nest.

Status: Native

At Risk: Not threatened

Where: Widespread throughout the country in scrubland, orchards, urban areas, forests and farmlands.

Species Information: 


Photo credit: NZBirdsonline

Kawau / Pied Shag

Phalacrocorax varius
Special Fact! Shag feathers are not waterproof! They are often seen perched on a rock with their wings spread out, basking in the sun to dry them out and warm themselves back up. The lack of waterproofing actually helps them dive and stay underwater for 20-30 seconds. It does mean they then have to spend a lot of time drying themselves out after a fishing expedition.

Features: Adults have a black stripe leading down the back of their head and encompassing their back and wings. The front of their face, chest and underparts are white. They have a long hooked grey beak and blue/green eyes. During breeding season, the skin between the eyes and beak turn yellow, along with a small pink/red stripe on the edge of the beak. They are usually silent away from their colonies, but can be very vocal at the nesting sight during breeding.

Feeding: Mainly small fish and crustaceans. Flounder, mullet, eels, kahawai, wrasse and trevally.

Breeding: Clutches can be layed all year round, but mostly February – April and August – October. Usually 2-5 eggs are laid.

Nest: Nests made of sticks, reeds and branches in trees along coastal cliffs and coastal freshwater.

Threats: Shags have in the past been shot by fishermen, seen as competition. Drowning in craypots, fishnets and inshore longlines. Because of the development of land where homes are being built near these colonies, some have even taken it upon themselves to chop the trees down where they nest, due to the noise and smell of the colonies.

Status: Native

At Risk: Recovering

Where: Coastal trees, river mouths, harbours and estuaries throughout the country.

Species Information: 

Photo credit: NZBirdsonline

Kuaka / Bar-tailed Godwit

Limosa lapponica
Special Fact! Bar-tailed Godwits boast the longest non-stop migration flight of any non-seabird. Not even a snack stop! Arriving on our shores in early September after an 8-9 day flight from the Northern Hemisphere. Their maiden voyage from Alaska can be as young as 4 months old! Young non-breeding birds then stay here during the winter until they are 3-4 years old before heading north around March time for breeding.

Features: Wading bird with brown mottled feathered back and head, and whiter underparts. Long legs and a long skinny bill that turns up slightly. Before breeding season, the males usually paler feathers turn a brilliant rust colour.

Feeding: Predominantly bristle worms but also crustaceans, mussels, oysters etc.

Breeding: Breeding in Alaska between March and September in the tundra from the coast to up to 200km inland. 4 eggs are laid which can be 11% of the female’s body weight, as the chicks hatch fully formed and mobile.

Nest: Small shallow bowl padded with lichen in the tundra.

Threats: Predominantly habitat loss, particularly at their stop off point during migration in the Yellow Sea. Climate change, with changing winds, tides, temperature etc which all alters migration patterns, foraging and breeding spaces.

Status: Native

At Risk: Declining

Where: Foraging along the intertidal areas in harbours and estuaries of New Zealand and eastern Australia, but breeding in the tundra of Alaska.

Species Information: 


Photo credit: NZBirdsonline

Tōrea Pango / Variable Oystercatcher

Haematopus unicolor
Special Fact! Oystercatchers were once killed for food, up until 1922 when they became protected. The different ratios of black to white (Black, pied and ‘smudgy’) colouring meant that initially the different colours were thought to be different species. The black morph variant increased significantly and as they have interbred with other coloured birds, all variations are now accepted to be one species.

Features: Black and white shorebird with long skinny bright orange beak and eyes, and pink-orange legs. Vary vocal, particularly when startled and with chicks or a nest around.

Feeding: Predominantly bivalve molluscs such as cockles, mussels, tuatua etc. But also invertebrates, both in the intertidal zone and in the grass near the coastline.

Breeding: Monogamous pairs who are very territorial, dive bombing and screeching at people near nests. 2-3 eggs laid from October onwards.

Nest: Small scrapes in the sand, sometimes with some driftwood or vegetation. Along the high tide mark.

Threats: Predation on chicks and eggs by hawks and gulls, and on adults by cats. Disturbance along the beaches by human activities which can affect eggs on the nest during breeding season. 

Status: Endemic

At Risk: Recovering

Where: Sandy beaches and dunes

Species Information:

Photo credit: NZBirdsonline

Information source and