A Rough Guide to New Zealand Birding
This is just a very rough guide to birding spots in New Zealand. I have been to some spots but most I have not yet been to. I hope to rectify that in the very near future. I have been working flat out for the past 6 months almost and I do not have a decent camera, so that has stifled my enthusiasm somewhat. But anyhow, here it is, warts and all. Some of the glamour species are the Kakapo, a large nocturnal, flightless parrot, and the Kea, a common parrot seen in the mountains above the Canterbury region. The Royal Albatross can be seen on land down at the Otago Peninsula and there are a number of penguins that can be seen down south. ( I think penguins are birds, aren’t they?).
Central North Island
Muriwai Gannet Colony is north of Auckland at Otakamiro Point, one of only three mainland gannet colonies in New Zealand. Go there from October to February to see the breeding and chicks emerging. See my photos of them fishing at Newcastle in May
Great Barrier Island is in the Huaraki Gulf north east of Auckland. It has an abundant bird population including Brown Teal, Banded Rail, Kaka, Tui and Wood Pigeon. There are also a number of sea birds such as the Black Petrel and Cooks Petrel.
Coromandel. The Karaka Bird Hide is in the Firth of Thames with a boardwalk and a hide. It is a Ramsar site and migratory waders can be seen on the Miranda Shellbank. Make sure you visit the Miranda Shorebird Centre. Here is my blog post on a tagged Bar-tailed Godwit that I photographed in Australia.
Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park has a large collection of native New Zealand Birds and is south of Hamilton. You will be able to see a Kiwi here if you cannot see one in the wild. Nearby is the Pirongia Forest Park. On the way, drop in to Raglan for some surfing and have a look around the mudflats for some waders.
Wellington Area – on the west coast going south have a look at Kapiti Island Nature Reserve. You will need a permit from the DOC and there are ferries to the island. The New Zealand Department of Conservation issues only 50 visitor permits per day. Permits are obtained by telephoning DOC at (04) 384 7770 at least the day before departure but it pays to book as early as possible as permits may be booked out days and weeks in advance.
Visitor Permits can also be booked online at http://booking.doc.govt.nz/Menu.aspx?sg=KAP. Permits must be obtained prior to leaving the beach at Paraparaumu. (source – Kapiti Marine Charter).
From the city of Wellington, head out to Breaker Bay to see the Blue Penguins.
30 Kilometers north of Masterton, the Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre has a visitors centre or you can take a walk through the forest and maybe see a Kokako, a rare New Zealand Wattlebird, or a Kaka. If you are lucky, you may get to see a Kiwi in the wild at night.
Marlborough and Nelson
Farewell Point is the northernmost point of the South Island. It is a great habitat for migratory waders. I think you can take tours there via Farewell Spit Safari. Check if you need a permit to go there. It is accessed via Collingwood. The Marlborough Sounds is well worth a visit. Check out the Queen Charlotte Track or take a boat ride or paddle a kayak through the spectacular waterways. Access is from Havelock. From Picton, you can take a cruise to the Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary and see the rare King Shags and the South Island Saddleback ( http://www.naturetours.co.nz/new-zealand/Birdwatchers/ ). Also have a look at the Abel Tasman National Park, which has some fantastic walking tracks. My mate Troy saw the New Zealand Pigeon there.
Kaikoura is south of Blenheim on the coast. You can take a whale watching tour or check out the Fur Seals lying around the car park or take the Alabtross Ecounter tour to see more than twelve species of Albatross including the Wandering and Royal Albatross. I could be having a look in a couple of days. On land you can see cormorants, terns, gulls and Varied Oystercatchers on the rock shelves. It is a twitchers paradise with 12 species of Albatross, 7 Shearwaters, 14 Petrels, 4 Prions and 4 Shags.
Arthurs Pass National Park – lots of birds here from Spring to Autumn. They include Great spotted kiwi, Blue duck, Australasian Harrier, Weka, New Zealand pigeon, Kaka,Kakariki,Kea, Long-tailed cuckoo and Shining cuckoo. Get a walking map from DOCs and go for it. Try Dobson Nature Walk, Bealey Valley, Temple Basin or Waimakariri River.
Kaki Visitor Hide is one of the places in the world where you can see the Black Stilt. It is located at Twizel in the Mackenzie region. Look out for lots of other waders and the New Zealand Falcon, a very rare raptor that is closely related to our Brown Falcon.
Otago and Southland
Otago Peninsular – do not miss the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head. It is the only mainland colony of Albatross in the world. How awesome is that? The Yellow-eyed penguin reserve is also on the Otago Peninsular at the Penguin Place, Harrington Road. Do not miss that either.
Catlins Coast – drop in at Nuggets Point to see the Spotted Shag, Yellow-eyed Penguins and Spoonbills. The coastal route is reputed to be one of the best birding sites in New Zealand.
Fiordland – maybe take a boat trip up the Doubtful Sound or Milford Sound. Walk the Milford Track and have a look at the Te Anau Wildlife Reserve to see the very rare Takahe, a flightless blue and green rail.
Stewart Island could be one of the best birding sites in New Zealand. There are Kiwis at Ocean Beach, Kakapo on Codfish Island, and puffins breeding on Muttonbird Islands. Also see Kaka and Blue Penguins.
Kapiti Marine Charter – http://www.kapitimarinecharter.co.nz/