This is a companion to my Bird of the Day blog, which focuses on birds I have seen in Victoria, Canada.

When my husband and I started planning a trip to New Zealand, I was delighted to read about the large number of unique birds that reside there. Having exhausted the supply of new birds at home, this was a welcome opportunity to continue my birding education. This blog will cover the various birding sites on the North and South Islands and (hopefully) the multitude of birds we encounter there.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Having read that Kaikoura is the albatross capital of New Zealand, if not the world, we decided to take a boat trip with Albatross Encounter. We saw five different species of albatross: Southern Royal Albatross, two species of wandering albatross (Gibson's and Antipodean) and two types of mollymawk (Salvin's and New Zealand White-capped). 

Southern Royal Albatross
Gibson's Wandering Albatross
Antipodean Wandering Albatross

New Zealand White-chinned Mollymawk
Salvin's Mollymawk
Other seabirds were also plentiful in the area, including petrel.

Cape Petrel

White-chinned Petrel

Giant-Northern Petrel
As an extra bonus, we saw both Dusky and Hector's Dolphins while out on the water, as well as a Little Blue Penguin. All in all, it was a great trip and a definite must for anyone interested in seabirds. 

Little Blue Penguin

Friday, February 24, 2012

Otago Peninsula (Day 2)

Although the rain had stopped over night, there were strong southwesterly winds on our second day in Portobello. Fortunately, these are the best conditions for albatross and we were able to see a large number of Northern Royal Albatross in flight. We also saw a nesting site with one adult and a chick. 

On the rocks beneath the Royal Albatrosses, a group of Stewart Island Shags were nesting. On the cliffs around the corner was a nesting ground for Spotted Shags.

Stewart Island Shags

close-up of spots
Spotted Shag
Little Blue Penguin

Later that night, we made our way down to Pilot Beach right next door to watch for Little Blue Penguins. At dusk, the first three came ashore and waddled up the hill to their burrows. After waiting another 10 to 15 minutes, a whole crowd of them appeared and made their way past us up the hill. Unfortunately, it was too dark by that time to get a good look at them although some walked by within feet of where we were sitting. It was also much too dark to take any pictures but I did get a few of some in nesting boxes earlier in the day. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Otago Peninsula

Rain was falling heavily as we drove into Portobello on the Otago Peninsula. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), it turned out to be the best place for viewing sea birds. I saw quite a variety including: Spoonbills, Pied Shags, Little Shags, Pied Oystercatchers, Pied Stilts, Red-billed Gulls, Black-backed Gulls, Caspian Tern, Black Swans, Paradise Shelducks, White-faced Herons, Shovellers and PENGUINS. There are Yellow-Eyed Penguin colonies in the area with hides built to allow people to watch the penguins without disturbing them. We saw four babies, as well as a number of mottling adults.




Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Arthur's Pass

Stopping at a lookout in Arthur's Pass, we were delighted to find a fair number of Kea. These alpine parrots are related to the North Island Kaka. Needless to say, I kept my eye on these birds after my Kaka encounter.

We had been warned about Kea trying to carry away unguarded items and causing damage to cars; however, I hadn't heard how entertaining their behaviour was. I found their antics quite comical. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Abel Tasman Park

We spent the last three nights at Kairuru, a sheep and cattle farm abutting Abel Tasman National Park. In addition to gorgeous scenery and a plethora of farm animals, we saw lots of Australasian Harriers flying overhead.
Australasian Harrier (Kahu)

While hiking in the park, we encountered numerous groups of California Quail, each consisting of a male, a female and about a dozen chicks. Very cute!

California Quail (male)

California Quail (female)

Northwest region of South Island

Last weekend, we took the ferry from Wellington to Picton on the South Island.  From there we drove through the Marlborough district to Motueka.  On the way, we stopped at a few of beaches and lagoons where we saw the following birds.
Grey Teal
Black Shag

Paradise Shelduck (male)

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Where the Waikanae River meets the Tasman Sea, there are walking trails on both sides of the river. From the north side, I saw this bird amid a flock of gulls. With its large, flat, spatulated bill, it's pretty obvious where the Royal Spoonbill gets its name.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kapiti Island

Today, we took a small ferry to Kapiti Island which is off the southwest coast of the North Island in the Tasman Sea. The island is a protected reserve and home to many species of native New Zealand birds, including 1,200 Kiwis. Unfortunately, we were only there in the daytime, so I didn't see any Kiwis but I did manage to get pretty close to some other interesting birds. In fact, the Kaka that landed on my shoulder got a little too close as far as I was concerned!

North Island Weka
North Island Kokako

North Island Kaka

Monday, February 13, 2012


We woke up this morning to our first day of rain since arriving in New Zealand.  However, by early afternoon the sky had cleared and we were able to get out for a long walk along the river. Although Turangi's claim to fame is its fish, birds were present in abundance as well.


Chaffinch (female)

Chaffinch (male)

Paradise Shelduck (male)
Paradise Shelduck (female)

Little Black Shag

Little Shag

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I'm not sure if it was the smell of sulphur or the steaming hot springs and exploding mud pools that kept the birds away, but I didn't see much bird activity in Rotorua. Gulls, Black Swans and New Zealand Scaup, along with the usual House Sparrows and Common Myna, were the only ones I encountered.

The New Zealand Scaup (shown below) is commonly known as the Black Teal.

New Zealand Scaup (male)


Late last week, we stopped in Matamata to see Hobbiton. Before entering we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement promising to keep everything we saw and heard there confidential. Hopefully, this didn't extend to the bird life or I could be in trouble. I saw these two birds swimming in the pond on the site. I don't think either of them were in the movie so I should be okay.

Black Swan


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tairua (Coromandel region)

After burning my feet at Hot Water Beach (which was ridiculously crowded), we stopped for the night in Tairua, a small town on the coast. Our motel was across the street from a pleasant beach where I saw a group of three Eastern Bar-tailed Godwit in eclipse plumage. These birds migrate to New Zealand from Alaska in late September and return in late March.

Eastern Bar-tailed Godwit

Friday, February 10, 2012


Leaving Auckland on our way to the Coromandel region, we decided to stop off in Miranda to look for shore birds.  After a rather length walk through a field and over stiles, we came upon a beach covered with shells. Great banks of them were washed ashore. I've never seen anything quite like it. The plethora of mollusks attracted large flocks of Oystercatchers, Wrybills, Herons and Shags, as well as the odd Plover and Dotterel.

Pied Shags

New Zealand Dotterel
(summer plumage)