Native birds (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about the native birds of New Zealand?

Image: Kakapo Sirocco by Chris Birmingham on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 01/11/17

Introduction

Aotearoa New Zealand has many unique native birds, from forest parrots to flightless birds, sea birds and birds of prey. In this entry we will show you how to find information about these birds, including their habitats, diets, adaptation, conservation, and communication.

Native bird species

Here is a list of some well known native birds species. Even if the bird you are looking for is not mentioned here, you will still probably find information about it in the websites we have gathered in this entry.

Fantail/pīwakawaka: A small, common bird that you can recognise because its tail opens up to look like a fan.

Kaka: An endangered large forest parrot, at rick from predators like rats, possums, stoats and cats.

Kākāpō: A large, flightless, nocturnal parrot, the kākāpō is one of our most endangered birds.

Kea: A famous mountain parrot found in the South Island, known for being very intelligent but also very mischievous.

Kiwi: New Zealand Aotearoa's national icon. There are different species of kiwi, including the little spotted kiwi, great spotted kiwi, brown kiwi and more.

Kōkako: A blue/grey forest bird that is not very good at flying. The South Island kokako is assumed to be extinct, but some remain in the North Island.

Morepork/ruru: New Zealand's only surviving owl, this bird can often be heard in forests at night.

New Zealand falcon/karearea: This bird of prey can fly over 100 kilometres an hour.

Paradise duck/pūtakitaki/pūtangitangi: One of our native ducks, this species mates for life and can be found in pasture, wetlands and grasslands.

Penguins: Flightless sea birds, New Zealand has more species of penguins on our shores than any other country.

Pūkeko: A common blue bird found in wetlands and often seen along the side of the road. Pūkako can fly, but they prefer walking, wading and swimming.

Takahē: A critically endangered flightless green and blue bird with a bright red beak.

Tuī: A common forest bird known for its beautiful song. Tuī have a distinctive white tuft under their throat.

Weka: A large brown flightless bird known for being a curious bird and a bit of a thief!

White heron/kōtuku: A graceful white bird with a long neck.

Wood Pidgeon/kererū: Also known as the kūkū, or kūkupa, this is a forest bird that you can hear flapping its wings because its body is so heavy!

General websites

Te Ara: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is one of the best websites to start with when you are looking at any topic about Aotearoa New Zealand. There's heaps of information about birds here, including images and media to go along with each story.

  • To find info about native birds, click on The Bush and then Native Birds and Bats.
  • From here, you can find out about specific birds like the kiwi or the moa, or you can look at birds based on their habitat, such as wetland birds or forest birds. This page also contains information about ngā manu, and the importance of birds in Māori life.
Tips: We like websites with .gov or .govt in their address because they are reliable – they are from government organisations.

Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation, also known as DOC, is a government agency in charge of conserving New Zealand's natural and historic heritage.

  • Select Nature, and then Birds A-Z for an alphabetical listing of all the birds in New Zealand.
  • You can also go to Nature and then Habitats, if you want information about the places that birds live.
Tips: Like Te Ara, this website also has a .govt in their address which means they are from a government organisation, so the information will be reliable.
New Zealand Birds Online

New Zealand Birds Online is a searchable encyclopedia of New Zealand birds. On this website you will find heaps of info about native birds, including extinct birds. This will include facts about habitat, population, ecology, conservation, images, birdcalls, and links to more websites about specific birds.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are. We trust this website because it is supported by Te Papa Tongarewa the Museum of New Zealand, Birds New Zealand, and the Department of Conservation.

Birds New Zealand

This is the website of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, which provides information and publications about New Zealand birds.

  • Click on Publications along the top of the webpage then choose Notornis. This is the scientific journal published by the Ornithological Society of New Zealand and contains lots of information about New Zealand birds.
  • The latest year of journals is protected by a password but you can get free access to all articles more than a year old, and the information will still be reliable.

Conservation

Many of New Zealand's birds are endangered species because of the threats they face from humans, introduced species and habitat destruction. Some species are so threatened that they may become extinct in the near future, while others, like the moa or the huia, are now extinct.

Forest and Bird

Forest and Bird is an independent New Zealand conversation organisation. Use this website to find information about bird conservation in New Zealand.

  • Click on Saving Our Environment then Native Plants and Animals to find out what Forest and Bird is doing to help, including info about different projects to save specific species, like the kakapo, kiwi and albatross.
  • You can also click on What We Do then choose Conservation projects to find out about conservation efforts around the country.
  • Another place to look is under the heading Campaigns and then Restoring our dawn chorus which is all about bringing back songbirds to New Zealand forests.
Tips: Websites with .org in the address can have good information but you need to check how reliable it is. Click on the About Us link at the top of the page to find out more about the websites mission and values.

Science Learning

This is one of our favourite science-related websites. Here you will find lots of information about native birds and conservation, including nature reserves, the birds' role in ecosystems and the birds' predators.

Tips: To find info about native birds, click on Science Stories along the top of the page. Then, click on Conserving Native Birds.

The Department of Conservation

  • Go to Nature and then Conservation Status. Here you can find out the difference between at-risk species, threatened species, protected species, and a glossary of terms used when describing endangered species.
  • There is also a link at the top of the page to New Zealand's threatened birds.

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara has information about conservation and threatened species too.

  • Click on The Bush and then Conservation. There's lots of information here, including pages about threatened species, national parks, pests, human effects, and kaitiakitanga - guardianship and conservation.

There are also lots of different projects and conservation efforts for specific birds.

Kiwis for kiwi : The Kiwi Trust works with the Department of Conversation to protect kiwis.

Takahē Recovery : Department of Conservation Takahē rangers work with others to protect the Takahē.

Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary : An island and conservation project near Auckland.

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari : An area near Hamilton surrounded by the worlds longest pest-proof fence.

Zelandia : an ecosanctuary near Wellington.

Adaptations

New Zealand's isolated location has meant that many of the species of birds we have here have evolved in unique ways. Try these sites to find out more about the physiological, behavioural and structural (or morphological) adaptations of New Zealand native birds.

EPIC Resources

EPIC is a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this.

The EPIC database Science In Context provides a really clear general explanation of adaptation. You can search using the keyword 'adaptation' or click on View All in the Biology box to find the Adaptation topic.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Science Learning Hub

One of our favourite science related websites, Science Learning Hub has some excellent information about native bird adaptations.

Click on the Science Stories tab and select the Conserving Native Birds topic. Here you can find an article Native bird adaptations which clearly explains the differences between physiological, behavioural and structural adaptations giving examples using native birds such as the kiwi, tui and takahē.

There will also be information about bird adaptations on the other websites we have mentioned above such as Te Ara and New Zealand Birds Online.

Extinction

Extinction means that there are no more living members of a species, and can be caused by a range of things, such as climate change or human causes such as hunting or habitat destruction.

Te Ara: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

To find out about extinction of native birds in New Zealand, have another look at Te Ara.

  • Click on The Bush, then Conservation and then Extinctions. This story gives a good explanation about what extinction means and what can cause it. There is also information about the extinction of large and small birds in New Zealand.
  • Check out the final page External links and sources for links to more helpful websites, as well as books you may be able to find in your local public library.

Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand blog

One of the staff at Te Papa has written a five part blog about extinct birds in New Zealand, including pictures of extinct bird bones, and links to more information about specific birds.

Don't forget to search the other websites we have mentioned in this entry, such as New Zealand Birds Online, for the keyword 'extinct' or the keywords 'extinct birds'.

Communication

Birds communicate in lots of different ways, using birdsong as well as their behaviour.

The Department of Conservation - bird songs and calls

This part of the DOC website lets you listen to, and download, bird songs from around New Zealand.

Bird Academy

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is an American website which has heaps of information about birds singing. There isn't anything specifically about New Zealand birds here, but if you are looking for an explanation about how and why birds sing, this is a great place to go.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the ‘about us’ link on the website, if you can find one. We like this website because it comes from Cornell University, so we know the information will be well researched and reliable.

Alderleaf Wilderness College

Alderleaf Wilderness College is another American website that has info about bird communication. Just like the Cornell Lab, this website won't have info about New Zealand birds, but it is another place to look for information about how and why birds communicate, and if humans can understand what birds are saying.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is.

Documentaries

There are a lot of videos online about native New Zealand birds. Here are a couple of good places to start:

NZOnScreen

This website has lots of documentaries that were made in New Zealand.

  • Look through this nature series list for documentaries about native birds, including the Little Black Robin, the Kea and The Black Stilt.
  • The videos Ghosts of Gondwanaland and Moa's Ark explore how New Zealand's isolation has contributed to our native bird evolution.

Videos about kiwi (DOC)

The Department of Conservation has this useful page of kiwi videos from around the internet.

SCIS no: 1832930

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