© 2020, The McGees

Wild Birds in New Zealand

May 09, 2019

Birds are a big deal here in New Zealand!

Recall that there were no land mammals (with the exception of a few bat species) on the island until they were introduced - first by the Polynesians or Maori. Rats and dogs started the influx followed by stoats, weasels, possums, cats, etc.

Needless to say, birds, and their eggs, have had a tough time surviving predation. We have noticed a lot of environmental efforts to control invasive mammalian populations in an effort to save or boost native and endemic (only found here) species of birds.

I have not done any serious bird watching but have been keeping a list of birds I have seen and successfully identified. Tim’s response to my frequent exclamation of “BIRD” is.., “SQUIRREL”. OK so I get distracted and FYI there are no squirrels here!

If you are interested in birds, check out my ongoing list below. I have included a bit of information about the sighting as well as a link to information about each bird. I intend to update the list regularly so stay tuned…

Julie’s NZ Bird List

August 13, 2019 Update from Rangitoto Island off the North Island (North Island Saddleback, Brown Quail, Red-Crowned Parakeet, Whitehead)

North Island Saddleback - endemic - So exciting to see this bird which was introduced to predator-free Rangitoto Island. This is a loud bird, black with a rust colored saddle across it’s back. We saw several of them on the island. North Island Saddleback

Brown Quail - introduced - Right along the trail almost at the summit, I heard something rustling and looked down to see this beautiful little bird. It’s feathers are quiet amazing. It stayed still the whole time for us to get a good look. Brown Quail

Red-Crowned Parakeet - endemic - We took an out-of-the-way trail on the island and saw several of these parrots in the trees eating. They are a beautiful green with a red crest and white beak. One of the species found primarily on the predator-free islands. Red-Crowned Parakeet

Whitehead - endemic - These are small songbirds with a very distinctive white head. We saw them in a flock amidst the saddlebacks on the island. They are only found on the north island. Whitehead


August 3, 2019 Update from Lake Rotoroa in Hamilton on the North Island (Mallard, Australian Coot, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose)

Mallard - introduced - I am ashamed to admit that I have seen these seemingly ubiquitous ducks all over New Zealand. They deserve due respect. We saw these while walking around urban Lake Rotoroa right along with the geese and pukekos. Mallard

Australian Coot - native - These coots are very recognizable with their white beaks and foreheads - right in there with the ducks and geese and pukekos around Lake Rotoroa. Australian Coot

Canada Goose - introduced - These geese are year round residents and their populations are controlled here in New Zealand. Canada Goose

Greylag Goose - introduced - These white (male) and grey (female) geese are domestics gone feral. Greylag Goose


July 27, 2019 Update from Kerikeri on the North Island (Weka, Fluttering Shearwater, Australasian Gannet, Pied Shag, California Quail, Wild Turkey, Song Thrush, Yellowhammer, Common Pheasant)

Weka - endemic - Not a Kiwi but a flightless rail-like bird. Terribly exciting sighting in Russell with Emma. There were several of them in the bush around a stream, calling to each other and hopping about. Weka

Fluttering Shearwater - endemic - While on the ferry from Russell to Paihia we passed a large flock of these smallish birds floating and bobbing on the Bay. When they take off, their white belly shows. Fluttering Shearwater

Australasian Gannet - native - We saw this beauty while on the ferry as well. He was alone floating on the water - big bird - and we couldn’t miss that golden head. Ooh Aah! Australasian Gannet

Pied Shag - native - This black and white shag was on some rocks along Paihia beach and at first I thought it was similar to one of the shags we saw in Dunedin - the Little Shag - but it was much bigger and clearly different. Pied Shag

California Quail - introduced - A little reminder of home in the hobby vineyard in Kerikeri! California Quail

Wild Turkey - introduced - Another familiar bird spotted in the paddocks - gobble gobble. Wild Turkey

Song Thrush - introduced - We watched these large brown birds with their speckled and streaked breasts often in the vineyard and paddock outside the Kerikeri house. They were almost always on the ground on their own. Song Thrush

Yellowhammer - introduced - On our hike around Abbey Caves, we spotted this little guy with his yellow head and breast. Emma and I took good mental notes and identified him once home. Yellow Hammer

Common Pheasant - introduced - I saw a big pheasant with impressive colors and long tail streak across a paddock while walking the dogs. Another introduced game bird. Common Pheasant


July 9, 2019 Update from Kerikeri on the North Island (European Goldfinch, Common Myna, Barbary Dove)

European Goldfinch - introduced - I was watching a flock of little birds in the vineyard thinking they were sparrows when I saw a flash of red. What a surprise to see (in the binoculars) this little goldfinch with bright yellow wingbars and red faces. European Goldfinch

Common Myna - introduced - You can’t miss these sleek black birds walking across the lawn (usually in pairs) with their white tipped tails and yellow cheeks, beaks and legs. Common Myna

Barbary Dove - introduced - There is a pair of these small and delicate whitish doves in the area. They have a very distinct black ring on the back of the neck. You can actually get pretty close to them - perhaps because they have been domesticated for hundreds of years. Paris and Monte would actually like to GET them! Barbary Dove


June 28, 2019 Update from Dunedin on the South Island (Northern Royal Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, White-capped Albatross, Bullers Albatross, Cape Petrel, White-fronted Tern, Little Shag, Spotted Shag, Otago Shag, Blue Penguin, Pied Stilt, Chaffinch)

Northern Royal Albatross - endemic - Huge albatross with the only land based breeding colony in the world on the Otago peninsula. We saw them both in the air and on the windswept bluffs near their fluffy white chicks. Northern Royal Albatross

Southern Royal Albatross - endemic - Even bigger albatross with white shoulder patches. We saw this bird floating on the water just before it took off in the wind with a running, somewhat awkward, on the water start. Southern Royal Albatross

White-capped Albatross - native - Also called a white-capped mollymawk. A smaller albatross - we saw these following the fishing boats in from the open ocean. White-capped Albatross

Bullers Albatross - endemic - Another mollymawk or smaller albatross. This was the first albatross we viewed, floating like a rubber duck on the water. Albatross are incredibly buoyant which makes sense since they spend so much time at sea. Bullers Albatross

Cape Petrel - native - A dark seagull looking bird. The boat captain explained that they come up to the Otago peninsula after breeding in the Antarctic. They follow the fishing boats. Cape Petrel

White-fronted Tern - native - A beautiful bird. I love the sleek lines of a tern. White-fronted Tern

Little Shag - native - One of the 3 species of shag we saw on our cruise. This is a small cormorant with a white face and neck. Little Shag

Spotted Shag - endemic - My favorite shag. This is a beautiful big bird with flaring crest and grayish coloring with teal highlights. Spotted Shag

Otago Shag - endemic - On the cruise we learn that this shag was once known as the Stewart Island shag. Thanks to genetic testing, it is now confirmed as a separate species. We get to see their amazing mud nest colony on the peninsula. Otago Shag

Blue Penguin - native - The littlest penguin species and they really are blue (with a white belly). We have the luck of seeing them on the water very near the boat and we even get to hear their sweet calls to each other. Rumor has it that these guys hang out on that island just off the beach where we walk every day. Blue Penguin

Pied Stilt - native - We see these birds in the estuary near the beach we go to daily. You can’t miss their long red legs. Pied Stilt

Chaffinch - introduced - This is a pretty sparrow like bird with distinct black and white bars on the wings. They like to peck around the paddock while I am picking up donkey poop. Chaffinch


June 9, 2019 Update from Dunedin on the South Island (Bellbird, Silvereye, Eurasian Blackbird, House Sparrow, South Island Pied Oystercatcher, Eastern Rosella, Tui, White-faced Heron, Welcome Swallow, Common Starling, Spur-winged Plover)

Bellbird - endemic - I had been told by the homeowners to put out jam and sugar water to attract wild birds. After finally getting around to doing that, we are rewarded with seeing many of the birds we have been hearing in the bush. The bellbird is one of the those - very recognizable with its red eyes and curved beak. Bellbird

Silvereye - native - Another visitor to the feeder. Close up, these are incredibly beautiful, colorful little birds with attractive eye rings. Silvereye

Eurasian Blackbird - introduced - We see this classic blackbird with its yellow beak (males) all around the house - on the grass, not at the feeder. Eurasian Blackbird

House Sparrow - introduced - These guys mob the chicken run and eat right alongside the chooks. They also enter the donkey shed and hut in flocks to eat straw and hay. We often surprise each other. House Sparrow

South Island Pied Oystercatcher - endemic - We see these shore birds often at the beach. They are smaller and more delicate than the Variable Oystercatchers. South Island Pied Oystercatcher

Eastern Rosella - introduced - It is kind of jaw dropping to be driving slowly on a country road and look up to see a PARROT sitting on the wire. Interestingly, there is a population of these guys in Dunedin, having been introduced from Australia in 1910. Eastern Rosella

Tui - endemic - The tui is one of my favorites. After hearing their amazing tunes and vocalizations in the bush, I have finally started spotting them in the edge trees and even at the feeder. They are pretty big and immediately recognizable thanks to their cool white throat puff. Tui

White-faced Heron - native - I just recently spotted these in the estuary on our way to the beach. They are a beautiful gray with a distinctive white face - so different than the all white herons at home. White-faced Heron

Welcome Swallow - native - We have seen these swallows a few times actually on the beach. They swoop down to eat the copepod type bugs that swarm the decaying kelp on the sand. I love that they are called “welcome” swallows. Welcome Swallow

Common Starling - introduced - Yep, here too! Sadly, a juvenile fell down the chimney, couldn’t fly back up, got stuck attempting to squeeze out the bricks and died. We can only hope there isn’t a nest up there. Common Starling

Spur-winged Plover - native - I saw a pair of these “shore” birds far from the shore. While walking down our road to meet up with Tim arriving by bus from the co-working space, I saw them swimming in a sea of paddock grass. I notice many shore-type birds in the paddocks here. Spur-winged Plover


May 10, 2019 Update from Dunedin on the South Island (NZ Fantail, Pukeko, Black Shag, Black Billed Gull, Southern Black Backed Gull, Australian Magpie, Tomtit, Black Swan, Swamp Harrier, Sacred Kingfisher, Paradise Shelduck, Kereru, Variable Oystercatcher)

New Zealand Fantail - endemic - These guys are so entertaining and are very curious. They flit about spreading their tale (like a fan). First bird I noticed right upon arrival in Auckland and have continued to see them throughout our travels. New Zealand Fantail

Pukeko - native - They look kind of like wild chickens. They are actually “swamp hens” and we see them all the time here in Dunedin on our way to the beach each morning. They have beautiful blue coloring when you see them close up. They like to cross the roads so there are Pukeko crossing signs all over. Pukeko

Black Shag - endemic - Basically a cormorant. We kayaked under an overhanging tree on Doubtful Sound and saw one with its wings out drying. Black Shag

Black Billed Gull - native - We see these gulls often on the quiet Brighton beach where we walk the dogs. The black and white tail, black bill and black legs are the giveaway. It is interesting that this gull is one of the most threatened in the world yet relatively abundant here. Black Billed Gull

Southern Black Backed Gull - native - These guys impressed me on our very first beach walk. They are BIG and their black backs make for a beautiful display of black and white when a whole flock takes off from the beach (sometimes due to the presence of humans and dogs). Southern Black Backed Gull

Australian Magpie - introduced - We saw these often out the bus windows when we traveled from Auckland to Kerikeri and from Queenstown to Dunedin. They hang out in the pastures (or paddocks as they call them here) and they immediately bring to mind a crow sort of bird. Very flashy with their black and white coloring. I recently spied one in the donkey paddock here. They have been detrimental to native bird populations. Australian Magpie

Tomtit - endemic - I saw this guy near the house. The black / yellow coloring is definitely eye catching. BIRD! Tomtit

Black Swan - native - On our way to our Airbnb in Christchurch we crossed a bay and saw… black swans. Now I have seen many white swans out at Shollenberger Park in Petaluma but black swans? Very cool and beautiful. Black Swan

Swamp Harrier - native - The only raptor I have seen. Spied it on fence posts and on the ground in paddocks as well as near the ocean. Very obvious white rump patch - just like the marsh hawk at home. Swamp Harrier

Sacred Kingfisher - native - One of the first days here in Dunedin, I take a walk up the road and spy a pair of these birds on the wire. They are so distinctly kingfisher shaped. I return home to the bird book and identify them as a pair of “sacred” kingfishers. Ah, how awesome is that to be “sacred”? Sacred Kingfisher

Paradise Shelduck - endemic - We often see lone pairs of these beautiful ducks - in pastures or near water. The white headed female and dark males are hard to miss. Paradise Shelduck

Kereru - endemic - Yep, it’s a pigeon, but oh what a pigeon. The New Zealand pigeon is really big. They crash through forest area and you can’t miss the “whoosh” of their wings as they take flight from the trees. I have yet to see one on the ground. Kereru

Variable Oystercatcher - endemic - You can’t miss these shore birds on the beach thanks to their long orange bills in contrast to their black bodies. We see them almost every day. Variable Oystercatcher

Written by Julie and Tim McGee who live in Sonoma, California, USA and frequently elsewhere...