A Field Guides Birding Tours Report


November 16-December 4, 2023 with Dan Lane & Michael Burton-Smith & Richard Schofield & Mark H guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the favorite experiences from the tour was our extended view of this Blue Duck family on the Whakapapanui creek in Tongariro National Park. Photo by Dan Lane.

Aotearoa is a famous for its awe-inspiring landscapes and broad open spaces (if you overlook the sheep and cows), with a history of cultural tolerance, its connection to the vastly successful Lord of the Rings films, and a showcase for what dedicated conservation efforts can do to bring a critically endangered flora and fauna back from the brink. We got to see the country from bottom-to-top (or top-to-bottom, depending on which way you hold the globe), a distance roughly similar (and at about the same latitudes) to traveling from Portland, Oregon, to Santa Cruz, California or if you’re an easterner like me: Bangor, Maine, to Virginia Beach, Virginia. We got to see many of the endemic families and species of birds, and see some of the offshore islands that are acting as “arks” until predator control on the main islands has brought mammal populations under control. We also were able to get out onto the water on several occasions to see some of the diverse seabirds that call New Zealand their home (when they aren’t at sea), making it one of the most important breeding areas for seabirds on Earth! And of course, New Zealand has had a heartbreaking history of extinction beginning with its first encounter with humans when the Polynesians first arrived, but accelerating when Europeans arrived, bringing an array of predatory mammals that efficiently gobbled up many of the naïve native bird species. What we see today is but a shadow of the bird-heavy fauna that once populated these islands. But instead of becoming mired in this tragedy let’s take stock of the things we encountered that will remain in our memories!

Among the many positive memories we made on this tour were some that were strongly connected to places, be they the primeval forest we witnessed in Fiordland, where the Nothofagus beech forests, with their humid, moss-covered floors and trunks, and festooned with ferns, brought to mind the mythical woodland sets of Lord of the Rings, and with good reason! Those scenes were filmed in forests much like these! Our boat rides around the fjord of Milford Sound, as well as the water tours of Otago Harbor and Queen Charlotte Sound all were mesmerizing, allowing us to feel dwarfed by landscapes and waterways of great beauty. Another land form that we enjoyed were the offshore islands that have become defacto refuges for native forest birds thanks to being predator-free. We visited Ulva, Blumine, and Tiritiri Matangi islands, each with a selection of the endemic forest species that have declined alarmingly on the main islands. Finally, the experience on the hilltop in Westland where the fledging Westland Petrels shuffled by us to reach the take-off point was another poignant reminder of the importance New Zealand plays in the breeding of seabirds.

Birds obviously dominated the way we saw our tour, and the group had a diverse selection of favorites from the tour, with two in particular tying for first place: the less-than-graceful Little Blue Penguin we watched scrabbling over rocks by the wharf at Oban, and being able to watch a North Island Kokako as he sang his heart out in our last minutes on Tiritiri. Other lasting memories include the night walk at the Oban airstrip to see the mammalian South Island Brown Kiwi as it snuffled around in the grass verge, as well as the ever-watchful parent Blue Ducks as they shepherded their three chicks along the Whakapapanui creek, not to mention watching the naughty Keas that terrorized a couple of Asian tourists by sitting over the car door and staring at them hard, or riding a car off into the sunset. The diminutive Riflemen, with their flitty high-metabolisms were adorable, the New Zealand Grebes (or Dabchicks) with young riding on their backs showed the epitome of parenting, and the Takahe with a gangly fuzzy young foraging at the edge of a meadow on Tiritiri reminded us of theropod dinosaurs with their small eyes and heavy frames! We enjoyed watching both species of Saddlebacks, which seem to fill a mixed niche of thrasher, foliage-gleaner, and tree-creeper, but always showing that flare of the orange wattle in the corners of their mouth. Several of the endemics are quite stunning, such as the Tui, graced both with lovely plumage and also impressive vocal ability, the exquisite Red-billed (Silver) Gulls with that gleaming white eye framed in a ruby-red eyering, accompanied by red bill and feet, the understated Morepork that we got to see during the day on two occasions, the cheery Tomtits that rarely gave us great views, but were worth it when they did! The seabirds also captivated us, from the Fiordland Penguins to the stately Royal Albatross (among other albatross!). Finally, the waders, the family of birds that perhaps best connects New Zealand to the rest of the world provided memories such as the huge concentrations of Bar-tailed Godwits, taking a break from Alaska, the two vagrant Gray-tailed Tattlers we enjoyed the day we arrived in Auckland, the Australian Black-fronted Dotterel that gave us a fine show at Otaki, or the brief view of a Reed Heron that those who walked the Kaikoura track enjoyed.

In all, we enjoyed seeing much of this amazing country, many thanks to our three local guides—Michael Burton-Smith, Mark Hanger, and Richard Schofield—and to the many conservationists who have made it their duty to try to fight for New Zealand’s native species! I hope you will cherish this visit, and perhaps consider another to another corner of this amazing planet with us!

Good birding (and pass the lolly cake or the steak pie)!

—Dan (the Barbet)

One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Apterygidae (Kiwis)

SOUTHERN BROWN KIWI (Apteryx australis) [E]

Our first Kiwi experience was on the airstrip on Stewart Island, and it was a smashing success, with extended views of a young male foraging at night in the grassy verge. We could hear the cries of others in the bush beyond.

OKARITO BROWN KIWI (Apteryx rowi) [E*]

Our second (and final) Kiwi outing was a mixed bag: we heard several individuals calling, but none were visible. Keas may have been responsible, and they provided some false alerts...

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis) [I]

Thanks Canada!

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South Island Brown Kiwi doesn't lend itself well to photography, but this grainy photo by Dan Lane nevertheless captured the moment.

BLACK SWAN (Cygnus atratus) [I]

An interesting case: there is subfossil evidence that this swan was native to NZ, but it was extirpated before European arrival, so the birds we saw on our tour were the result of an introduction effort from Oz.

PARADISE SHELDUCK (Tadorna variegata) [E]

Perhaps one of the most successful of the endemic birds of NZ, they are everywhere!

BLUE DUCK (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos) [E]

After a failed attempt or two on the South Island, we had a great experience with a family on the Whakapapa River. This species is the larger cousin of the Andean Torrent Duck, and behaves similarly, if a bit more sluggishly.

AUSTRALASIAN SHOVELER (Spatula rhynchotis)

Much like a Northern Shoveler caught in eclipse plumage, the females are more distinct, lacking the orange on the bill that we see on the northern birds.

PACIFIC BLACK DUCK (Anas superciliosa)

As Michael related, this is a somewhat sad story of genetic swamping by boreal Mallards. We saw a few "pure" birds (at least in appearance) on the South Island, but these are the exception these days.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) [I]

Apparently from North American stock, but widespread across the country and widely hybridized with the previous species.

GRAY TEAL (Anas gracilis)

Innocuous but fairly widespread.

BROWN TEAL (Anas chlorotis) [E]

Our only experience was with a pair on that little pond on Tiritiri Matangi. The species is gaining ground on the main islands with predator control, however.

NEW ZEALAND SCAUP (Aythya novaeseelandiae) [E]

Widespread and common.

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A flock of Black Swans show their curious photo-negative pattern of black body and white flight feathers... like a reverse of Snow Goose! Photo by Dan Lane.
Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

CALIFORNIA QUAIL (Callipepla californica) [I]

An odd bird to see so far from home!

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]

Seen on the North Island on our last couple of days.

BROWN QUAIL (Synoicus ypsilophorus) [I]

An introduction from Oz, but like the Black Swan, apparently may have occurred naturally on NZ prior to European contact but were extirpated.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

HOARY-HEADED GREBE (Poliocephalus poliocephalus)

A species that colonized NZ in modern times and has a small population on Lake Elterwater, where we saw it.

NEW ZEALAND GREBE (Poliocephalus rufopectus) [E]

Mostly on the North Island, we saw several on lakes Taupo and Rotorua.

GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus)

Also known locally as the Puteketeke, and famously now voted as Bird of the Century thanks to John Oliver. Birds in the Southern Hemisphere are sometimes considered a separate species from northern ones: Australasian Crested Grebe (P. australis), but at present, Clements/eBird does not consider it such.

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We visited NZ in the aftermath of the selection of Puteketeke or Great Crested Grebe as NZ's Bird of the Century thanks to John Oliver. Photo by Dan Lane.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]


SPOTTED DOVE (Spilopelia chinensis) [I]

At Miranda.

NEW ZEALAND PIGEON (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) [E]

Locally called "Keruru," this huge pigeon seems to be doing surprisingly well for an endemic species.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

LONG-TAILED KOEL (Urodynamis taitensis) [E*]

Blast, heard only at a couple of sites on the tour.

SHINING BRONZE-CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx lucidus)

Heard on several days, but we had fine views of a couple on our first full day at Fiordland. Unlike the last species, this one also breeds on Oz.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

WEKA (Gallirallus australis) [E]

We had some great luck seeing this endemic, and endangered, species at many sites on the tour. Some folks witnessed one capturing and dispatching a tern chick, but the Weka is very much an opportunist and omnivore... that was not an unusual behavior! It is an issue when it depredates rarer endemic, of course!

BUFF-BANDED RAIL (Gallirallus philippensis)

What luck! We had scope views at Miranda of a bird that sometimes we miss altogether! An adult on a mudflat with a large fuzzy chick was nice.

EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra)

Also called "Black Coot" since the species is clearly found away from Eurasia!

SOUTH ISLAND TAKAHE (Porphyrio hochstetteri) [E]

First we saw a family at the Te Anau captive rearing area, but we actually lucked out on Tiritiri and saw a family there with a recent fledgling (my first time seeing one there). I can't help thinking that this is the closest we may get to seeing one of those flightless "Terrorbirds" of the Eocene in the Americas.

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South Island Takahe is a bird we rarely see on the tour, and those we do are transplants from captive populations. Nevertheless, they are an impressive bird, giving a bit of the feel of watching one of those South American Terrorbirds, although they are strictly herbivorous! Photo by Dan Lane.

AUSTRALASIAN SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio melanotus)

Locally called "Pukeko," a name I really like. The Bruce Banner to the Takahe.

BAILLON'S CRAKE (AUSTRALASIAN) (Zapornia pusilla affinis)

A few folks caught a glimpse (and Carla even got a photo!) around the Ohau ponds, but mostly we heard them

SPOTLESS CRAKE (Zapornia tabuensis) [*]

Heard only at Lake Taupo.

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

PIED STILT (Himantopus leucocephalus)

A widespread species that has colonized from Oz in the past several hundred years, and has caused some issue with interbreeding with the next species. We even saw one hybrid at Ashley River estuary.

BLACK STILT (Himantopus novaezelandiae) [E]

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)


Locally called "SIPOs" (an acronym based on the name "South Island Pied Oystercatcher"), we saw this one at many spots on both islands, but they are only known to breed on the South Island.

VARIABLE OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus unicolor) [E]

Mostly coastal, we saw them at many spots. Despite their name, most are black. I only noticed one or two white-bellied birds.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis fulva) [b]

A good flock of these was at Miranda, but mostly distant.

MASKED LAPWING (BLACK-SHOULDERED) (Vanellus miles novaehollandiae)

Locally called "Spur-winged Plover" (though that's also the name of an African species). This is another fairly recent self-colonizer from Oz.

RED-BREASTED DOTTEREL (Charadrius obscurus) [E]

Locally called "New Zealand Dotterel" and rather endangered. We enjoyed distant views at Miranda, and then far better views the same day at Mangere.

DOUBLE-BANDED PLOVER (Charadrius bicinctus) [E]

Locally called "Two-banded Dotterel," but unlike the last, it is a fairly common and widespread species, particularly on braided rivers of the South Island.

BLACK-FRONTED DOTTEREL (Elseyornis melanops)

A rare and local species that has colonized from Oz. We enjoyed seeing one at the Otaki water treatment ponds.

WRYBILL (Anarhynchus frontalis) [E]

Formerly an endemic genus, but a recent phylogenetic study of plovers has shown that Wrybill is embedded within a rather large group of plovers that includes the likes of Snowy and Wilson's, among others. So in a strange twist of fate, the formerly monotypic genus Anarhynchus is now one of the most speciose within the plover family! We had some nice views at Lake Pukaki and then later at some estuaries where non-breeding birds had gathered.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

BAR-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa lapponica) [b]

The main wintering boreal migrant shorebird in NZ, and one that makes a heroic non-stop migration from Alaska! We saw them at several points, but the numbers at Miranda and Mangere were amazing!

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres) [b]

A boreal migrant, most likely from Siberia, that we saw at a few spots on the North Island.

RED KNOT (Calidris canutus) [b]

As with the last species, this is a boreal migrant we encountered on the North Island.

RED-NECKED STINT (Calidris ruficollis) [b]

Only one individual of this boreal migrant was visible at Miranda feeding with some Wrybills.

GRAY-TAILED TATTLER (Tringa brevipes) [b]

Hey, now this was a bit of a surprise, but we had two of these Siberian breeders at the Mangere site, a life bird for your guide!

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Gray-tailed Tattler, an overshoot from Australasia, was a nice find at Mangere. Photo by Dan Lane.
Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)

BROWN SKUA (SUBANTARCTIC) (Stercorarius antarcticus lonnbergi)

A couple of birds on the sea mounts off Stewart Island, where they nest locally and pilfer food from passing seabirds.

PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus)

Several of these arctic-breeding larids were coursing around Queen Charlotte Sound on our day out from Picton.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

BLACK-BILLED GULL (Chroicocephalus bulleri) [E]

Although an endangered gull, it is nevertheless not rare on the tour. The source of the status is their vulnerability at their nesting colonies to mammalian predators.

SILVER GULL (RED-BILLED) (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae scopulinus) [E]

Although considered conspecific with Australian Silver Gulls, the NZ form is often considered a separate species, the Red-billed, which was the name we used on the tour. Mostly coastal, but a large breeding colony is on Lake Rotorua.

KELP GULL (Larus dominicanus)

Also called "Southern Black-backed Gull" in NZ, we saw this species quite a bit. Nice not to have to struggle with various large gulls to ID, right?

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

About as far from the Caspian Sea here as it is in North America!

BLACK-FRONTED TERN (Chlidonias albostriatus) [E]

Related to our Black Tern, this is a marsh tern that breeds on the braided rivers of the South Island.

WHITE-FRONTED TERN (Sterna striata)

By comparison to the last species, this one is coastal.

Spheniscidae (Penguins)

LITTLE PENGUIN (Eudyptula minor)

We saw these "Little Blue Penguins" at several spots around the South Island. The first one we saw well at Stewart Island was climbing onto the rocks by the harbor at Oban, allowing for great views!

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This unsure Little Penguin provided us with entertainment as it scrabbled over the rocks at Oban. Photo by Dan Lane.

FIORDLAND PENGUIN (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) [E]

Seen both on our boat ride on the Milford Sound and again near Oban on Stewart Island.

Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)

WHITE-CAPPED ALBATROSS (STEADI) (Thalassarche cauta steadi)

More common than the next around Stewart island, but strangely, we saw many on our ferry crossing of the Cook's Strait as well.

SALVIN'S ALBATROSS (Thalassarche salvini) [E]

More common than the last around Kaikoura, with about even numbers of the two at the mouth of the Otago Harbor.

ROYAL ALBATROSS (SOUTHERN) (Diomedea epomophora epomophora)

Reportedly the largest albatross in the world, and one we saw well at the Otago Harbor mouth and also Kaikoura.

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This Southern Royal Albatross is one of the largest flying birds in the world. Note its pencil-thin "smile line" on the bill. Photo by Dan Lane.

ROYAL ALBATROSS (NORTHERN) (Diomedea epomophora sanfordi) [E]

Now widely accepted as a separate species from the previous one, this one breeds on the Otago headlands and some of the NZ offshore islands. We saw them on several boat trips off the South Island.

WANDERING ALBATROSS (NEW ZEALAND) (Diomedea exulans antipodensis)

Wandering Albatross has been split into four species, but this is the one that breeds in NZ waters.

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By comparison, this Antipodean Wandering Albatross lacks the smile line. Photo by Dan Lane.
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)

NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL (Macronectes halli)

These Jurassic-looking beasties are considered the vultures of the sea, but still give way to the large albatrosses at chum, as was obvious at the back of the Kaikoura boat.

CAPE PETREL (Daption capense)

An attractive small petrel, also called Pintado Petrel or Cape Pigeon. Off Otago heads, we saw a particularly white-backed individual that was likely a member of the nominate sub-Antarctic breeding population (capense) versus the darker form that breeds locally around NZ (australe).

COOK'S PETREL (Pterodroma cookii) [E]

Breeding on a few islands off Auckland and Stewart Island, we saw one or two around Tiritiri Matangi our last day.

FAIRY PRION (Pachyptila turtur)

The hoards that we experienced as we took the ferry across Cook's Strait were mind-numbing!

WHITE-CHINNED PETREL (Procellaria aequinoctialis)

One flew by on our outing off Kaikoura.

WESTLAND PETREL (Procellaria westlandica) [E]

After seeing one off Otago Heads, we had an amazing experience with several fledging juveniles at the nesting colony near Punakaiki, and then more at Kaikoura and again on the Cook's Strait.

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These Cape Petrels are showing the two subspecies we saw: the whiter-backed nominate and the darker-backed australis, which breeds in NZ territory. Photo by Dan Lane.


After our first one or two on the ferry crossing over Cook's Strait, we saw several more around Tiritiri Matangi.

BULLER'S SHEARWATER (Ardenna bulleri) [E]

Formerly called "New Zealand Shearwater" we saw one or two off Otago Heads, another one or two off Kaikoura, and finally around Tiritiri.

SOOTY SHEARWATER (Ardenna grisea)

Several seen on nearly every boat trip. This species breeds around NZ and other subantarctic islands.

SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER (Ardenna tenuirostris)

Two seen by Diane and me on our second Kaikoura pelagic. The species breeds off Australia.

HUTTON'S SHEARWATER (Puffinus huttoni) [E]

Breeding strictly around Kaikoura, we saw numbers of them there.

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A view of the scene at Kaikoura with Northern Royal and Wandering albatross and Northern Giant-Petrels. Photo by Dan Lane.


Common at the north end of the South Island and near Tiritiri.

COMMON DIVING-PETREL (Pelecanoides urinatrix)

Our best view was on the return ferry from Stewart Island.

Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)


Similar to the familiar species in the north Atlantic, but with more black on the flight feathers and tail. Most common on the Queen Charlotte Sound.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Microcarbo melanoleucos)

Fairly common on most still water bodies.

GREAT CORMORANT (AUSTRALASIAN) (Phalacrocorax carbo novaehollandiae)

Locally called "Black Shag," we saw it mostly on still waters. A couple on Stewart Island were unusual.

SPOTTED SHAG (Phalacrocorax punctatus) [E]

An attractive ocean-going shag we saw at most places where we were on rocky coasts.

LITTLE BLACK CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris)

Primarily a species of the North Island and the northernmost part of the South Island, so a couple at the estuary near Invercargill were a surprise.

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Often underwhelming to see, this Little Black Cormorant is dressed in breeding attire, and has a stunning emerald eye to boot! Photo by Dan Lane.

PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax varius)

Another attractive species that is largely coastal.

NEW ZEALAND KING SHAG (Leucocarbo carunculatus) [E]

A very local endemic to the Queen Charlotte Sound, where we saw it well on a couple of roosting cliffs.

STEWART ISLAND SHAG (OTAGO) (Leucocarbo chalconotus chalconotus) [E]

This is the form we saw around Otago Heads and again at the Oamaru wharf. Some authorities have suggested splitting it from the form found around Stewart Island.

STEWART ISLAND SHAG (FOVEAUX) (Leucocarbo chalconotus stewarti) [E]

Found around Stewart Island.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

AUSTRALASIAN BITTERN (Botaurus poiciloptilus)

After hearing one booming at the old wharf on Lake Taupo, Richard spotted one in flight there, and another at our lunch spot about a half hour later! Wow!

GREAT EGRET (AUSTRALASIAN) (Ardea alba modesta)

Locally called "White Heron" and a very local breeder around Okarito, this species held a special place in Maori legend.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

The common heron in NZ.

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The local and endangered New Zealand King Shag is another stunning cormorant, showing a yellow patch above the lores and a cobalt blue eyering. Photo Dan Lane.

PACIFIC REEF-HERON (Egretta sacra)

Richard spotted one on the Kaikoura walk, and managed to get several folks on it.

CATTLE EGRET (EASTERN) (Bubulcus ibis coromandus)

Recently split by Clements' from the Western form (found in the Americas and Africa/Europe), this is the SE Asian and Australasian species that differs in breeding plumage in having a mostly orange head. The bird we saw at Miranda was showing this. It apparently hasn't been seen there in several years!

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)

Two at the Blenheim Water Treatment Plant have been there for a while, apparently. Otherwise very scarce on NZ.

ROYAL SPOONBILL (Platalea regia)

A fairly recent colonizer from Oz, but now widespread and common. We got to see the high breeding colors of the birds at he nesting colony at the Blenheim WTP with the yellow eyebrows and red band on the forehead.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

SWAMP HARRIER (Circus approximans)

Common and widespread.

Strigidae (Owls)

MOREPORK (Ninox novaeseelandiae) [E]

Recently split from Southern Boobook in Oz, and also called "Ruru" locally. We heard them on several nighttime outings, but saw one on Ulva Island and another on Tiritiri Matangi.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

SACRED KINGFISHER (Todiramphus sanctus)

Far more often heard than seen, we finally saw it well at Miranda and Mangere. This species is widespread in Australasia.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

NEW ZEALAND FALCON (Falco novaeseelandiae) [E]

Flying birds seen on three occasions: one as we drove up the West Coast from Haast to Franz Josef, one circling above us at our stop at Arthur's Pass, and finally another near Taupo on the North Island.

Strigopidae (New Zealand Parrots)

KEA (Nestor notabilis) [E]

Although endangered, we got very good looks at this bold and intelligent parrot at Homer Tunnel, and again at night at Okarito, where one fooled us briefly by walking around our feet like a kiwi!

NEW ZEALAND KAKA (Nestor meridionalis) [E]

Good views around Stewart Island, but we had some more distant birds at other spots on both main islands.

Psittaculidae (Old World Parrots)

RED-CROWNED PARAKEET (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae novaezelandiae)

Primarily on offshore islands such as Ulva and Tiritiri.

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We spotted a few New Zealand Grebes on lakes on the North Island, such as here at Rotorua. Photo by Dan Lane.

YELLOW-CROWNED PARAKEET (Cyanoramphus auriceps) [E]

Good looks on the Gunn Lake walk in Fiordland, with flybys at several other places.

MALHERBE'S PARAKEET (Cyanoramphus malherbi) [E]

Our stop on Blumine Island gave some of us views of this very local species. It is native to a valley near Arthur's Pass on South Island, but has been transferred to Blumine Island to prevent extinction.

EASTERN ROSELLA (Platycercus eximius) [I]

An Aussie lory that we saw fleetingly on a couple of occasions.

Acanthisittidae (New Zealand Wrens)

RIFLEMAN (Acanthisitta chloris) [E]

What a cutie! This tiny passerine that looks like the love child of a kinglet and a nuthatch popped up on a few occasions in good native forest. Our first views were on the trail at Haast Pass.

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Rifleman is one of two extant members of the New Zealand Wren family, which is considered one of the most primitive of the passerines. That may be, but they still captured our hearts! Photo by Dan Lane.
Meliphagidae (Honeyeaters)

TUI (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) [E]

A bold, loud, and widespread honeyeater we saw at many places.

NEW ZEALAND BELLBIRD (Anthornis melanura) [E]

Perhaps a bit more common than the last, but harder to see well.

Acanthizidae (Thornbills and Allies)

GRAY GERYGONE (Gerygone igata) [E]

Locally called "Gray Warbler" this is the only representative of the Australasian Gerygone radiation on the main islands of NZ. Its melancholy song is quite beautiful.

Mohouidae (Whiteheads)

WHITEHEAD (Mohoua albicilla) [E]

This and the next two species are members of an endemic NZ family called the Mohouidae that are basically the local replacements for titmice and chickadees. This is the North Island species, and it is not rare in native forest there.

YELLOWHEAD (Mohoua ochrocephala) [E]

The South Island replacement of the last, this bird is also doing far worse on the main island without extensive predator control. On Ulva Island, however, it is quite bold and easy to see.

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Yellowhead is the rarest member of the Mohouidae, another New Zealand endemic family comprising three species. To many of us, this bird seemed like a Prothonotary Warbler that acted like a titmouse. Photo by Dan Lane.

PIPIPI (Mohoua novaeseelandiae) [E]

Locally called "Brown Creeper," this is more common than the last in forests on the main South Island.

Artamidae (Woodswallows, Bellmagpies, and Allies)

AUSTRALIAN MAGPIE (Gymnorhina tibicen) [I]

Introduced from Oz, it is widespread in open country throughout the country. We saw a couple of black-backed birds on the North Island, whereas most are of the white-backed population.

Rhipiduridae (Fantails)

NEW ZEALAND FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa) [E]

Locally given the amusing name "Piwakawaka," that brings Fozzy Bear to mind. An adorable common forest bird we encountered throughout. We even saw a black morph bird at the parking area at Ashley River Estuary.

Callaeidae (Wattlebirds)

NORTH ISLAND KOKAKO (Callaeas wilsoni) [E]

Wow, after hearing the impressive and haunting dawn chorus at the Kaharoa Conservation Area, we sweated a bit at Tiritiri, only to be rewarded at the last minute with great views of a singing male! A stellar last bird of the tour!

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North Island Kokako was our last new bird as a group, and a fitting finale to the tour on Tiritiri Matangi Island! Photo by Dan Lane.

NORTH ISLAND SADDLEBACK (Philesturnus rufusater) [E]

Common at Tiritiri!

SOUTH ISLAND SADDLEBACK (Philesturnus carunculatus) [E]

After Terry and I had a view while we were apart from the group on Ulva Island, the group managed to catch up with great views at Blumine Island, which put some smiles on faces.

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Another member of the endemic "Wattled Crows" is South Island Saddleback, which we watched for an extended period on Blumine Island. Photo Dan Lane.
Notiomystidae (Stitchbird)

STITCHBIRD (Notiomystis cincta) [E]

A monotypic and endemic family that we only encountered on Tiritiri our last day. The species is restricted now to a few offshore islands where most populations need supplemental feeding to maintain.

Petroicidae (Australasian Robins)

NORTH ISLAND ROBIN (Petroica longipes) [E]

Similarly bold to the SI species, and also a lovely songster. We saw them above Lake Taupo and at Kaharoa Conservation Area.

SOUTH ISLAND ROBIN (Petroica australis) [E]

Great views at Fiordland and Ulva Island. A friendly bird that sometimes will hop about underfoot!

TOMTIT (NEW ZEALAND) (Petroica macrocephala toitoi) [E]

A charming little forest bird that we encountered on the North Island. Perhaps our best views were at the roadside stop near Lake Taupo. This is the white-breasted North Island form.

TOMTIT (NEW ZEALAND) (Petroica macrocephala macrocephala) [E]

This is the orange-tinged South Island form we encountered on several occasions.

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The orange-tinged South Island form of Tomtit is a cheerful little sprite. Photo by Dan Lane.
Alaudidae (Larks)

EURASIAN SKYLARK (Alauda arvensis) [I]

A widespread European introduction that provided pleasant background music to many open country sites.

Locustellidae (Grassbirds and Allies)

NEW ZEALAND FERNBIRD (Poodytes punctatus) [E]

A streaky passerine that looks like it would fit into the Andean canastero group quite handily! We had our first view at Okarito, with a backup view at the shores of Lake Taupo.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

WELCOME SWALLOW (Hirundo neoxena)

Present and common throughout.

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As is true with swallows elsewhere in the world, a blustery cold front grounded these Welcome Swallows at Blenheim. Photo Dan Lane.
Zosteropidae (White-eyes, Yuhinas, and Allies)

SILVEREYE (Zosterops lateralis)

A natural colonizer from Oz in the past hundred or so years, and it has covered most of the country.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]


COMMON MYNA (Acridotheres tristis) [I]

Carla spotted our first one not far from Foxton, which is near the southern terminus of their usual distribution in NZ. It became a regular sight farther north.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

SONG THRUSH (Turdus philomelos) [I]

Abundant throughout!

EURASIAN BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula) [I]

Like the last, this European import is found throughout NZ, apparently at higher densities even than in its native land!

Prunellidae (Accentors)

DUNNOCK (Prunella modularis) [I]

Found throughout, where its cheery song is evident in most open country.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]


Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

NEW ZEALAND PIPIT (Anthus novaeseelandiae)

Seen well on the roadside near Whakapapa as we were watching the Blue Ducks.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

COMMON CHAFFINCH (Fringilla coelebs) [I]

This was perhaps the most common of the European finches, found from dense forest to the open grasslands of NZ.

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Here, the group huddled around a Kiwi crossing sign, hoping that it would result in a successful kiwi hunt that evening. Happily, it did. Photo by Dan Lane.

EUROPEAN GREENFINCH (Chloris chloris) [I]

Mostly common on the drier and more open parts of the country.

LESSER REDPOLL (Acanthis cabaret) [I]

More common perhaps on the South Island, where we heard them flying over regularly, and even managed a few good views.

EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis) [I]

Widespread and common in open areas.

Emberizidae (Old World Buntings)

YELLOWHAMMER (Emberiza citrinella) [I]

Fairly common in open country on both main islands. Hard to hold being introduced against them!


COMMON BRUSHTAIL POSSUM (Trichosurus vulpecula) [I]

Dead on road (DOA).

EUROPEAN HEDGEHOG (Erinaceus europaeus) [I]


OLD WORLD RABBIT (Oryctolagus cuniculus) [I]

Many live ones seen, but also many DOA.

EUROPEAN BROWN HARE (Lepus europaeus) [I]

Seen on South Island especially.


A pod showed well on the Cook's Strait ferry crossing.

DUSKY DOLPHIN (Lagenorhynchus obscurus)

Great views in Queen Charlotte Sound.

HECTOR'S DOLPHIN (Cephalorhynchus hectori)

A small pod near Kaikoura was great!

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Hector's Dolphin is an endangered endemic species that we enjoyed on our Kaikoura pelagic. Photo by Dan Lane.

HOOKER'S SEA LION (Phocarctos hookeri)

Mostly on sandy beaches.

NEW ZEALAND FUR SEAL (Arctocephalus forsteri)

More widespread than the last.

FALLOW DEER (Dama dama) [I]

Some feral individuals at a few spots.

RED DEER (Cervus elaphus) [I]

A feral individual or two on the South Island.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus) [I]

One or two on Stewart Island.


Beaked Whale sp.: Diane and I saw a small pod of these on our second pelagic off Kaikoura. Still not clear which species was involved, as several are possible in the area.

Totals for the tour: 132 bird taxa and 12 mammal taxa