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

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: Kevin Burke


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

Information source and