A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

New Zealand (Kania Private) 2023

October 15-November 2, 2023 with Doug Gochfeld & local guide guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
New Zealand is full of breathtaking scenery, and our drive through the Eglington Valley early on in the tour was an early sampler. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

This was a whirlwind tour around a healthy portion of the two main islands of New Zealand. We stayed in 11 different locations over the course of 16 days, and covered more than 2,200 miles by land (and more by boat during our 10+ maritime excursions). We covered most of the main habitats of New Zealand, and found a good portion of the accessible and still-surviving endemic birds, from kiwis and Wrybills, to saddlebacks and Riflemen, and even some Takahe! In addition to the suite of endemic landbirds, one of the most exciting features of New Zealand, from a birding perspective, is the richness of its nearshore pelagic waters. With a close oceanic shelf edge, and cold water throughout, the abundance and diversity of tubenoses is unlike any other landmass on the planet, and we got to take advantage of this bounty on several boat trips (as well as a few seawatches)

We started off in Queenstown, and once we (eventually) had everyone in tow, we set off towards Te Anau to begin our grand excursion. From our base of operations here, we spent the next day exploring the breathtakingly beautiful Fiordland National Park. In addition to driving through scenery out of a fairytale, we also did some walking in the lovely (but windy) forests here, before getting on our first of many boat rides to explore the Milford Sound. As we got towards the mouth of the bay, we finally had some nice views of Fiordland Penguin, a nice bird bonus on a trip that was largely all about the awe-inspiring scenery.

The next day found us driving down to Bluff, and boarding the pedestrian ferry to cross the Foveaux Strait for our two night stay on Stewart Island. After dinner, we braved the sideways rain and gusty winds to go out on a kiwi expedition. Eventually, as time ran down on the outing, we found not one, but two Southern Brown Kiwis performing well under the red-tinted flashlights of our guides, making for an unforgettable experience with these bizarre birds! Our full day based on Stewart was jam packed, with an excellent near shore pelagic trip, with ten species of tubenose (including 4 of albatross), followed by a stroll on Ulva Island, where we saw a panoply of endemic passerines that call this predator-free islet their home.

Back on the mainland the next day (after some Broad-billed Prions highlighted the return ferry journey), we made our way north towards Dunedin. After our very successful pelagic here (including a couple of thousand Sooty Shearwaters and 80+ individuals of 6 species of albatross!), we spent the next couple of days traversing and birding our way across the center of the island. Black Stilt, close up views of Wrybill and New Zealand Pipit, and even a confiding Baillon’s Crake were the bird highlights in the shadow of the ever-impressive Mount Cook and the rest of this “Lord of the Rings” country, and the food and scenery were no slouches. By the time we got to the west side of the island a westerly gale was in full effect, and bracketed around our rainy evening at Okarito, we had some interesting seabirds, such as Long-tailed and Parasitic jaegers, migrant Brown (presumably) Skuas, and White-capped and Black-browed albatrosses from shore. On the land-centric side of things, the afternoon jaunt to the alien-looking Pancake Rocks, and the evening amongst the breeding Westland Petrels were excellent experiences.

A rainy driving day gave us a forced respite from even thinking about birding, though after we crested the central mountain range and descended towards the pelagic promised land of Kaikoura, the rain slackened (though the wind, not so much!). On our first morning in Kaikoura, it was too windy for a boat-based adventure, so we took a measured stroll around the coast of the Kaikoura peninsula, stopping now and then to ogle the sea (Dusky Dolphin, Hutton’s and Buller’s shearwaters), as well as some more terrestrial birds (cooperative New Zealand Bellbirds and a post-perching White-faced Heron, a beautiful Double-banded Plover, and the raucous colony of Silver Gulls down below us). The next morning, we were able to sneak in a couple of hours on the boat off of Kaikoura, and the legendary pelagic trip did not fail us! We had at least thirteen species of tubenose, highlighted by our intimate experiences with some Wandering Albatrosses (this taxon now split into Antipodean Albatross) feeding behind the boat. Watching these longest-winged of birds effortlessly coast in over the swells and then drop onto the water and turn into complete gluttons, as they defended the chum from the giant-petrels, smaller albatrosses, and each other, was a fascinating dichotomy, and the mountains surrounding Kaikoura in the background lent yet another pinch of magic to the scene. We then departed Kaikoura, birding our way north with a couple of very productive stops for waterbirds, including Hoary-headed Grebe, and eventually meeting our local guides for the final couple of days of the tour, and sadly saying goodbye to Richard. The afternoon boat trip in the Marlborough Sounds was narrated by quite the character of a captain, and though the island was more crowded than usual, and we didn’t see Malherbe’s Parakeet, we did get into position for amazingly close, walk-away (float-away?) views of the large and exceptionally range restricted King Shag.

The next day we hopped on the massive Inter-island Ferry. Not only did it provide some interesting pelagic birding, but those who were interested got an impromptu tour of the bridge, which was a really neat added treat. The next couple of days had us transiting north towards Auckland, with highlight stops at Lake Taupo (a rare-inland Bar-tailed Godwit was nice, but the real treat was seeing Australasian Bittern – woo hoo!), Pureora Forest (Yellow-crowned Parakeet, Rifleman, Kaka, North Island Robin, Whitehead), the impressive wetlands of Miranda (4,500 Bar-tailed Godwits, nice numbers of Wrybill, Pacific Golden-Plover, Red Knot, and local rarities Whiskered Tern and Glossy Ibis), and the Mangere area (7 Red-breasted Dotterels, 3,000+ other shorebirds). This set the stage for our final day of birding – the trip to the very special, predator free island of Tiritiri Matangi. This visit exceeded our expectations, with Stitchbirds, North Island Saddleback, and Red-crowned Parakeets coming easy on the trails, a pair of North Island Kokako appearing at the perfect time for us (and some had another later), and a bizarre ground-roosting Morepork inside a tree cavity(!!!). We got to the top, and decided to do some birding before our lunch, finding four Brown Teal, and to cap things off, the piece de resistance: a group of three of the rare and reclusive Takahe, which gave excellent views before they stalked back into the forest, becoming invisible to those who hadn’t been at the right place at the right time. Our final dinner was over the top delicious, and lots of fond memories were batted about as we reveled in our final day, and indeed our prior two weeks, of birding, eating, laughing, and exploring on these remote islands.

Thanks to Denis Kania for arranging such a wonderful group, and to all of you for helping to make it such an excellent time. You were a really fun group of folks to criss-cross this lovely country with, and I hope to see you all in the field again somewhere on this bird birdy globe.

—Douglas Gochfeld

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 (STEWART I.) (Apteryx australis lawryi) [E]

We got a blasting of wind and rain on our nighttime excursion to see the kiwis at Stewart Island, and it looked pretty grim there for a while. Eventually though, we came across a territorial male and another individual, and they put on great shows under the low intensity red lights used by our guides. A truly special encounter with these bizarre birds!

Field Guides Birding Tours
Salvin's Albatross and White-capped Albatross used to both be considered part of one species: Shy Albatross. They have been (rightly) split for a good long while now, and they were two of the commoner species of albatross during our travels. Here is a great comparison of a adults of each (Salvin's on the left), and they were anything but shy during a couple of our pelagics. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

OKARITO BROWN KIWI (Apteryx rowi) [E*]

Only a few of us braved the rainy conditions to try for this exceptionally range restricted species. That small group came ever so close to seeing one of the radio tagged birds, but just as it approached the forest edge an intense thunderstorm cell hit us, and though it only lasted for a couple of minutes, that seemed to be all it took for the kiwi to decide that the interior of the forest was better than the un-canopied edge. We did get to hear it do a spontaneous full song series at close range though, which was quite a treat.

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis) [I]

Seen most days, usually in relatively small numbers.

BLACK SWAN (Cygnus atratus)

Common in appropriate habitat, these are especially pretty in flight when they're flashing lots of white in the wings to contrast with their otherwise black plumage.

PARADISE SHELDUCK (Tadorna variegata) [E]

An every day bird.

BLUE DUCK (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos) [E]

We got a nice view of a pair of these scarce ducks at Monkey Creek on the way back from Milford Sound on day two.

AUSTRALASIAN SHOVELER (Spatula rhynchotis)

Seen on the majority of days. Abundant in appropriate habitat.

PACIFIC BLACK DUCK (Anas superciliosa)

A real victim of the introduction of Mallards to New Zealand, which has heavily diluted the gene pool. It can be hard to find pure-looking Pacific Black Ducks, given all the hybrids throughout the country, but there were a couple of regions where there were some numbers of pure-looking Pacific Black Ducks.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Tui is an iconic native bird of New Zealand, and perhaps the most widespread of the native passerines, holding its own against all the introduced passerines, and often bullying them. This was one of several dozen we encountered on Tiritiri Matangi Island. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) [I]

This transplanted species was all too common during our travels, unfortunately.


This long-staying female was only the second record for New Zealand, and we got to see it despite the very high winds that afflicted the lagoon it was sharing with hundreds of other waterfowl.

GRAY TEAL (Anas gracilis)

Seen on a bit over half the days, a couple of times in good numbers.

BROWN TEAL (Anas chlorotis) [E]

We found four of these scarce ducks on Tiritiri Matangi Island, including two on the pond below the lighthouse. Though they seemed wary at first, they ultimately gave us some great views.

NEW ZEALAND SCAUP (Aythya novaeseelandiae) [E]

Common and widespread on both islands.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

CALIFORNIA QUAIL (Callipepla californica) [I]

We saw a couple of these American introductions close by at Lake Hayes, and then heard them at Ohau C.

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Fiordland Penguin is restricted to the southern end of the South Island, as well as Stewart Island, and there are only a couple of accessible places to find them. We got some real nice views of them both on their nesting cliffs and in the water as we motored out for our boat trip off Stewart Island. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo) [I]

We saw a few of these familiar fowl on our penultimate day, as we drove away from Miranda.

RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]

A male in the road as we headed away from the Skotel, and then a couple heard in the Miranda area.

BROWN QUAIL (Synoicus ypsilophorus) [I]

Nice views along the path at Tiritiri Matangi.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

HOARY-HEADED GREBE (Poliocephalus poliocephalus)

These have become regular in a couple of spots in New Zealand, and we got excellent views at Lake Elterwater.

NEW ZEALAND GREBE (Poliocephalus rufopectus) [E]

Lake Elterwater and then again a couple of days later on the North Island.

GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus)

Plenty of the now famous pūteketeke in a few spots on the South Island. They have been provided with floating nesting platforms in a number of lakes, and this has allowed their population to bounce back in a major way. In 2023, buoyed by a campaign by comedian and newsman John Oliver, the pūteketeke won the voting for New Zealand's bird of the century, in the process achieving a strong fifteen minutes of fame in non-birding circles.

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Getting onto the boat for our amazing Kaikoura trip was a first for many of us - we took a ladder onto the boat while it was on a trailer, and a tractor then slowly lowered the boat into the water. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Seen on most days.

SPOTTED DOVE (Spilopelia chinensis) [I]

A couple on the North Island, with the first one at the Miranda parking lot.

NEW ZEALAND PIGEON (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) [E]

This massive and gorgeous pigeon was seen on most days of the tour, often flying by, but also seen well perched a few times.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

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

We heard a loud vocalization that may have been this species (Ian certainly thought it was) during the night excursion for the Okarito Brown Kiwi. It was unclear if it was an active migrant or a bird calling from its roost in the night.

SHINING BRONZE-CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx lucidus)

One at Lake Hayes on the first day, and then a couple showing exceptionally well on Tiritiri Matangi on the final day.

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South Island Takahe was thought extinct until it was rediscovered deep in the mountains of the South Island in 1948. Nowadays, there are pairs in several predator free areas in New Zealand, but they can still be very difficult to track down. We were exceptionally fortunate to find three birds on Tiritiri Matangi Island! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

WEKA (Gallirallus australis) [E]

Common on the west coast of the South Island, and also excellent views on Blumine Island.

BUFF-BANDED RAIL (Gallirallus philippensis) [*]

Heard by some at Miranda.

EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra)

We caught up with them on several bodies of freshwater across both islands.

SOUTH ISLAND TAKAHE (Porphyrio hochstetteri) [E]

What an amazing bonus! This was not an expected sighting, as these shy, highly endangered birds, can be very difficult to see on a day trip, spending most of their days in dense forest. We lucked into three of them at the edge of the meadow on the walk down to the pond below the lighthouse, and after watching them for a while were able to share them with several other birders who were around the area. What a phenomenal way to finish off our time in New Zealand!

AUSTRALASIAN SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio melanotus)

Except for a few days early on in the tour, this smaller, flighted, cousin of the Takahe was an every day bird for us.

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

We had nice looks at a couple of these, and heard others, at Ohau C, and then Diann and others had one at Lake Taupo as well.

SPOTLESS CRAKE (Zapornia tabuensis) [*]

Heard only at very close range at Lake Taupo, but we never could quite coax it out into the open (the high water where it happened to be might have hurt us here, but this is a shy species regardless).

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Black Stilt is one of the most endangered shorebirds in the world, and we found a couple of them in the picturesque Mackenzie Basin of the South Island. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

PIED STILT (Himantopus leucocephalus)

Seen on over half our days.

BLACK STILT (Himantopus novaezelandiae) [E]

One of the most endangered shorebirds on the planet (it declined to a low of 23 individuals in 1981), and now threatened due to the natural colonization (from Australia) of Pied Stilt, which leads to frequent hybridization, compounded by the low numbers of Black Stilt overall. The population of adults in the wild was up to 106 by 2017, thanks to intensive human management, including captive rearing of chicks. We saw a couple of banded (confirming their pure, non-hybrid status) individuals at very close range, almost immediately upon our arrival at Lake Pukaki. Often you have to traipse all over the braided river here to get good looks, but we were quite fortunate to see them so quickly.

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)


Majority of days. This oystercatcher is unlike many of the world's oystercatchers in that it does breeding and congregating away from the coast, and can be found in open fields throughout both islands.

VARIABLE OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus unicolor) [E]

Much like the Black Oystercatcher of the US, this all dark oystercatcher favors rocky coastlines, and we found them throughout the tour in these habitats.

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The Mirror Lakes in the Eglington Valley - yet another example of the phenomenal scenery of this continent. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)


A flock of 37 of these long distance migrants (breeding on the tundra of Alaska or Russia) were trying to blend into the mudflats at Miranda.

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

Nearly every day of the tour.

RED-BREASTED DOTTEREL (Charadrius obscurus) [E]

Briefly at Miranda, but then plenty at Mangere in Auckland. Very cool to see this range restricted shorebird which has a global population of a bit over 2,000 (and estimated 1,400 mature individuals) so well, including a couple of fluffy chicks!

DOUBLE-BANDED PLOVER (Charadrius bicinctus) [E]

Te Anau, Lake Pukaki, and Kaikoura.

WRYBILL (Anarhynchus frontalis) [E]

We had a wonderful experience watching a pair of these on their breeding grounds at Lake Pukaki, blending in so perfectly with the gray stones that their oddly shaped beaks help them pick through for food. Then we had numbers at a couple of shorebird hotspots along the coast at both Miranda and Mangere.

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The great albatrosses are the longest wingspanned birds on the planet. Wandering Albatross had just been split at the beginning of our trip, and so when we finally saw these giants, this species had been newly christened Antipodean Albatross. We had some awesome experiences with them off Kaikoura. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

BAR-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa lapponica)

The most numerous species of bird we saw on this tour, largely on the strength of the large flocks at Miranda and Mangere, where they had just recently arrived to spend the northern winter (in the Austral summer, what a life!). We also bumped into them at a couple of oddball locations, with a flock flying by near Stewart Island, and a single bird flying in front of us between marshy areas at Lake Taupo.

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

A small number in the distance at the Riverton Estuary.

RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)

Hundreds in their "Grey Knot" winter plumage at Miranda and Mangere.

Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)

BROWN SKUA (SUBANTARCTIC) (Stercorarius antarcticus lonnbergi)

Three came into the ship during our boat trip off Stewart Island, and we also had three migrating south together off shore at Okarito Beach after a big storm.

PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus)

Three heading south off of Okarito Beach,

LONG-TAILED JAEGER (Stercorarius longicaudus)

A very rare bird from shore here, we had one loosely associating with the 3 Parasitic Jaegers heading southbound off of Okarito Beach.

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New Zealand King Shag is a unique cormorant (check out those thick legs!), and one of the most range restricted cormorants in the world. Luckily, the boat captain in the Marlborough Sounds knew exactly where to take us at the perfect time od day to see a flock of seven of them staging before heading off to roost. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

BLACK-BILLED GULL (Chroicocephalus bulleri) [E]

Another endangered bird, we had them scattered throughout the tour in various habitats.

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

Nearly every day, with just missing them on a couple of days away from the coast. The big colonies at Dunedin and Kaikoura were especially impressive.

KELP GULL (Larus dominicanus)

An every day bird.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

We picked up this largest of all terns in ones and twos on four different days.

WHISKERED TERN (Chlidonias hybrida)

Another mega rarity for New Zealand, this one had also been around for a while before our visit.

BLACK-FRONTED TERN (Chlidonias albostriatus) [E]

Some nice views of this snappy looking tern at a couple of inland spots.

WHITE-FRONTED TERN (Sterna striata)

Abundant around the coast in some places. Hokitika had a large roosting flock in the estuary, and the Pancake Rocks breeding colony was lovely as well.

Spheniscidae (Penguins)

LITTLE PENGUIN (Eudyptula minor)

A few of these on our pelagic trip off of Stewart Island.

FIORDLAND PENGUIN (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) [E]

Good views of this exceptionally range restricted penguin at both Milford Sound and then near Stewart Island.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This Black-browed Albatross off of Kaikoura was a special one, as it was the 4,000th species that Joe had seen in his life! Photo by participant Joe Suchecki.
Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)

BULLER'S ALBATROSS (Thalassarche bulleri)

Two off of Dunedin, two off Stewart Island.

WHITE-CAPPED ALBATROSS (CAUTA) (Thalassarche cauta cauta)

More than 60 from our various boat trips associated with Stewart Island (including the ferry ride), and then scattered in small numbers through the rest of our South Island time.

SALVIN'S ALBATROSS (Thalassarche salvini) [E]

The most common albatross we saw, with highest concentrations being off Dunedin, Kaikoura, and in the Cook Strait.

BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS (BLACK-BROWED) (Thalassarche melanophris melanophris)

One young Black-browed Albatross of unknown subspecies (it was too young to identify more specifically) made a pass by the boat off of Otago Head near Dunedin. One made a quick flyby in the rain and wind off of Ship Creek, and then two of them hung out by the boat during our morning pelagic at Kaikoura, and it was the first of these two that accounted for Joe's 4,000th species!

ROYAL ALBATROSS (SOUTHERN) (Diomedea epomophora epomophora)

Royal Albatross is now split by Clements/eBird into two full species, and we had half a dozen of these off of Stewart Island, a dozen off of Otago Head, and then a single bird on the Kaikoura trip.

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

At least 30 were on the ground or flying around the breeding colony at Otago Head, and then we had a surprise one that flew by as we transited the Cook Strait.

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Pelagic trips out of Kaikoura don't have to go very far off shore to have an incredible seabird experience! Here, an Antipodean Albatross arcs in front of the Kaikoura Mountains during our dawn boat trip. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

WANDERING ALBATROSS (Diomedea exulans)

The most impressive of the albatrosses, the Wandering group was split into three species during our tour. We saw five of what are now known as Antipodean Albatrosses (Diomedea antipodensis) on our pelagic trip off of Kaikoura. These were the first Wandering Albatrosses that I had seen since the death of Field Guides' own Wandering Albatross, Tom Johnson, so communing with this already amazing bird so close to the boat was extra special this time. We encountered another Wandering Albatross in the Cook Strait, but this one couldn't be identified to subspecies (now species) with certainty - it was either an Antipodean Albatross or a Snowy Albatross.

Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)

SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL (Macronectes giganteus)

One came in for good comparisons to its close cousin, the next species, during our productive boat trip off of Stewart Island.

NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL (Macronectes halli)

On the boat trips off of Stewart Island, Dunedin, and Kaikoura, and also seen from land at Kaikoura.

SOUTHERN FULMAR (Fulmarus glacialoides)

Nice views of one during our Kaikoura pelagic trip, we don't usually see this during the date range of this tour, but the earlier date and big southerly blow the day prior no doubt contributed to us seeing this species.

CAPE PETREL (Daption capense)

Seen on five of our boat trips and also from shore at Kaikoura during the big wind. Double digits on the boats off of Stewart Island, and Kaikoura, and in the Cook Strait.

BROAD-BILLED PRION (Pachyptila vittata)

A few of these flew by (or we flew by them as they foraged) during the fast ferry ride from Stewart Island back across the Foveaux Strait.

WHITE-CHINNED PETREL (Procellaria aequinoctialis)

A couple seen well off Kaikoura.

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We saw Westland Petrels both in their breeding habitat and at sea, with the repeated pelagic encounters giving us our best views - check out the black bill tip and the lack of any white feathering on the chin - good ways to separate it from the very similar (and much more globally widespread) White-chinned Petrel. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

WESTLAND PETREL (Procellaria westlandica) [E]

A nice surprise off of Stewart Island, where we were the more expected Procellaria is White-chinned Petrel, and also encountered on the Kaikoura and Cook Strait boat trips. At Paparoa National Park on the west coast, we saw them seawatching from shore off Pancake Rocks before we made the climb up into the Westland Petrel colony, where we had the very special privilege of watching adults arriving and departing after dark as they provisioned their nests under cover of darkness.


One flew behind the boat as we pulled into the dock at Tiritiri Matangi Island.

BULLER'S SHEARWATER (Ardenna bulleri) [E]

A few of us were able to see these from land at the Pancake Rocks and at Kaikoura, and we also had one fly by us on our Kaikoura pelagic.

SOOTY SHEARWATER (Ardenna grisea)

Seen on 8 days, with the vast majority of our over 4,000 individuals coming on the Stewart Island, Foveaux Strait and Dunedin boat trips.

HUTTON'S SHEARWATER (Puffinus huttoni) [E]

A few at Paparoa and in the Cook Strait, but lots at Kaikoura.


One in Cook Strait, one as we docked at Tiritiri Matangi, and around in the Queen Charlotte Sound.

COMMON DIVING-PETREL (Pelecanoides urinatrix)

The calm conditions on our morning boat trip off of Stewart Island provided us with the opportunity to see lots of these sneaky seabirds sitting on the surface of the water, giving us much better and more prolonged views of them than the norm.

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Pancake Rocks off of Punanaiki were jaw dropping, and certainly one of the most scenic tern colonies (White-fronted, in this case) we had ever been to. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)


Small numbers over the second half of the tour, with double digits once, off the Pancake Rocks.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Microcarbo melanoleucos)

Small numbers throughout, and seen on the majority of days.

GREAT CORMORANT (AUSTRALASIAN) (Phalacrocorax carbo novaehollandiae)

Highest number was at Lake Taupo.

SPOTTED SHAG (Phalacrocorax punctatus) [E]

Including a colony of them at Otago Head.

LITTLE BLACK CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris)

North Island only, and we had over a hundred at the lake at Rotorua,

PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax varius)

Our walk at Kaikoura produced the majority of these, including one hanging by fishing line from a small nesting colony.

NEW ZEALAND KING SHAG (Leucocarbo carunculatus) [E]

The global population of this cormorant, whose range is restricted to the Marlborough Sounds at the north end of the South Island, is right around 700 birds, and we saw 7 of them very well, perched at close range from our boat trip into the sounds.

STEWART ISLAND SHAG (Leucocarbo chalconotus) [E]

Triple digits at breeding colonies off Stewart Island and Otago Head and on the wharf at Oamaru.

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A little gang of Pipipi (also known to many Kiwis as "Brown Creeper") put on a a nice show for us at Ulva Island. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

AUSTRALASIAN BITTERN (Botaurus poiciloptilus)

Three calling, and one briefly seen, at Lake Taupo.

GREAT EGRET (AUSTRALASIAN) (Ardea alba modesta)

A couple of these New Zealand scarcities around the town of Okarito.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

Almost every day - we only missed the species on two days.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)

One seen and photographed as we drove away from the Miranda shorebird sanctuary.

ROYAL SPOONBILL (Platalea regia)

Best views were probably in the ripping wind at the Tip Lagoon, but highest numbers were at Blenheim WTP and at Mangere,

Field Guides Birding Tours
Speaking of Kiwis, the most special group of all the very special New Zealand endemics are kiwis, and after a bit of trial and tribulation, we finally had a great experience with a couple of Southern Brown Kiwis during our first night on Stewart Island. We only use dim red lights on the birds, so photos in black-and-white are often the best option! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

SWAMP HARRIER (Circus approximans)

Every single day for this, the only resident hawk in the country.

Strigidae (Owls)

MOREPORK (Ninox novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae)

Heard at Okarito and Paparoa, and then seen in a bizarre ground roost site inside the base of a tree trunk at Tiritiri Matangi, the latter made perhaps made possible by the lack of terrestrial predators on the island.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

SACRED KINGFISHER (Todiramphus sanctus)

Seen on five days.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Stitchbird is another of the endemics that relies on the helping hand of humans to persist in a few predator free locations. We had great views as they came to nectar feeders at Tiritiri Matangi. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Strigopidae (New Zealand Parrots)

KEA (Nestor notabilis) [E]

These large, very curious, and highly intelligent endemic parrots entertained us as we drove through Fiordland NP, and then we saw another couple on our morning in Franz Josef.

NEW ZEALAND KAKA (Nestor meridionalis) [E]

Seen at Fiordland, then some very cooperative and inquisitive ones at Stewart Island (especially around the motel), and then again at Pureora Forest.

Psittaculidae (Old World Parrots)

RED-CROWNED PARAKEET (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae novaezelandiae)

This rare Cyanoramphus is essentially restricted to offshore islands, and we did well by seeing it twice, at Ulva Island and Tiritiri Matangi.

YELLOW-CROWNED PARAKEET (Cyanoramphus auriceps) [E]

Mirror Lakes and Pureora Forest.

MALHERBE'S PARAKEET (Cyanoramphus malherbi) [E*]

Heard only a couple of times at Blumine Island, but sadly we never did get to see it in our brief time on the island.

EASTERN ROSELLA (Platycercus eximius) [I]

One teed up in a tree at the ferry dock just before we continued onto Tiritiri Matangi Island.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Keas are known for being charismatic, and curious, and are often seen as a nuisance because of this curiosity. But if you get over their antics and look closely at their plumage - the feather patterning is mesmerizing. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Acanthisittidae (New Zealand Wrens)

RIFLEMAN (Acanthisitta chloris) [E]

Pairs at Lake Gunn and Ulva Island, and one at Pureora Forest.

Meliphagidae (Honeyeaters)

TUI (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) [E]

This charming and pugnacious endemic songbird was conspicuous throughout our travels. Their vocal repertoire really is something.

NEW ZEALAND BELLBIRD (Anthornis melanura) [E]

Scattered through appropriate habitat throughout our trip, but particularly abundant on Tiritiri, where we estimated 50 individuals encountered.

Acanthizidae (Thornbills and Allies)

GRAY GERYGONE (Gerygone igata) [E]

This common small bird with the distinctive undulating high pitched song was seen on over half our days.

Field Guides Birding Tours
North Island Kokako is another of the difficult endemics to track down, and we saw a couple of them on our final day, at Tiritiri Matangi. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Mohouidae (Whiteheads)

WHITEHEAD (Mohoua albicilla) [E]

We encountered small groups at a couple of spots on the antepenultimate day, and then around 20 on Tiritiri.

YELLOWHEAD (Mohoua ochrocephala) [E]

Very good views on Ulva Island.

PIPIPI (Mohoua novaeseelandiae) [E]

We found several of these confiding songbirds (known as "Brown Creepers' in kiwispeak) on Ulva Island.

Artamidae (Woodswallows, Bellmagpies, and Allies)

AUSTRALIAN MAGPIE (Gymnorhina tibicen) [I]

This Australian introduction was seen nearly every day.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here the group is celebrating a great morning of shorebirds with a healthy dose of ice cream in Twizel. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Rhipiduridae (Fantails)

NEW ZEALAND FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa) [E]

We saw it on more than half of the days, and it was particularly special on one of those days, when it became Denis' 5,000th species seen.

Callaeidae (Wattlebirds)

NORTH ISLAND KOKAKO (Callaeas wilsoni) [E]

We finally saw a pair of this excellent and unique endemic along a path on Tiritiri, and then some folks saw and heard one or two later on down by the boat dock.

NORTH ISLAND SADDLEBACK (Philesturnus rufusater) [E]

We saw five or so of these on Tiritiri, including a pair investigating a nest box that did not seem designed for them.

SOUTH ISLAND SADDLEBACK (Philesturnus carunculatus) [E]

One confiding individual on Ulva Island.

Notiomystidae (Stitchbird)

STITCHBIRD (Notiomystis cincta) [E]

A half dozen of these bright nectar-loving songbirds at Tiritiri.

Field Guides Birding Tours
New Zealand Fantail was one of the most confiding passerines of the tour, and it was also very special for Denis - our first one was his 5,000th species! This one, seen later on in the tour, was hawking insects on the beach at Okarito. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Petroicidae (Australasian Robins)

NORTH ISLAND ROBIN (Petroica longipes)

Tongariro and Pureora.

SOUTH ISLAND ROBIN (Petroica australis) [E]

Very confiding birds on a couple of our walks in Fiordland and then also at Ulva Island.

TOMTIT (NEW ZEALAND) (Petroica macrocephala toitoi)

This North Island taxon was seen at Tongariro and Pureora.

TOMTIT (NEW ZEALAND) (Petroica macrocephala macrocephala)

Scattered in ones and twos across several sites on the South Island.

Alaudidae (Larks)

EURASIAN SKYLARK (Alauda arvensis) [I]

We enjoyed the aerial displays of these European introductions throughout the tour, only missing it on a couple of days.

Locustellidae (Grassbirds and Allies)

NEW ZEALAND FERNBIRD (Poodytes punctatus) [E]

Excellent and good views, respectively, at Sinclair Wetlands and Lake Taupo, and then one rustling around and barely seen at Tiritiri.

Field Guides Birding Tours
New Zealand Fernbird is a widespread endemic that inhabits densely vegetated wetlands around both islands, but can be difficult to get a good view of. Luckily, the very first one we encountered posed for a while, evidently not realizing that it was supposed to be a skulker. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)

WELCOME SWALLOW (Hirundo neoxena)

We only missed this common and widespread swallow on one day - our full day on and around Stewart Island.

Zosteropidae (White-eyes, Yuhinas, and Allies)

SILVEREYE (Zosterops lateralis)

Seen nearly every day, including 80 or so around Lake Hayes on day one.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]


COMMON MYNA (Acridotheres tristis) [I]

Common once we arrived on the North Island.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here's the group birding the endemic-rich Ulva Island early on in the tour. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

SONG THRUSH (Turdus philomelos) [I]

This European introduction was in plenty of habitats, and seen every day except the final day.

EURASIAN BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula) [I]

Abundant, widespread, vocal, and seen every day.

Prunellidae (Accentors)

DUNNOCK (Prunella modularis) [I]

Like its fellow European introduction, Song Thrush, the very vocal Dunnock was seen every day except the last (though it was substantially less abundant than the thrush).

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Every day.

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

NEW ZEALAND PIPIT (Anthus novaeseelandiae)

Seen only once, along the road on the way into Lake Ohau.

Field Guides Birding Tours
South Island Saddleback was one of the gems we found on Ulva, though it took us a while to finally find one. Once we did find it (or it found us), we got some stellar views. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

COMMON CHAFFINCH (Fringilla coelebs) [I]

Abundant, widespread, noisy, and seen every day.

EUROPEAN GREENFINCH (Chloris chloris) [I]

Less numerous than its fellow European introductions (except at Kaikoura, where it was abundant), but still seen every day except one.

LESSER REDPOLL (Acanthis cabaret) [I]

Seen on most days, with the largest flock at Stewart Island.

EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis) [I]

Widespread and common, with the largest flock being seen over a farm field as we were driving.

Emberizidae (Old World Buntings)

YELLOWHAMMER (Emberiza citrinella) [I]

Widespread and seen intermittently throughout, including a nice feeding flock on the lawn at Pureora.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Buller's Albatross is one of the smaller albatrosses we encountered, but it also might have an argument for "best in show." What a gorgeous bird. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.


OLD WORLD RABBIT (Oryctolagus cuniculus) [I]

This vegetation-damaging introduction was seen on more than half the days.

CAPE HARE (Lepus capensis) [I]

This very large bunny was seen on a few days, but was much less common than the prior species.

NORWAY (BROWN) RAT (Rattus norvegicus)

This terrestrial rat was seen a time or two.

BLACK RAT (Rattus rattus)

These are more arboreal than Brown Rats, and we saw at least one several feet off the ground and clearly up to no good, during one of our nocturnal excursions.

DUSKY DOLPHIN (Lagenorhynchus obscurus)

Kaikoura and Queen Charlotte Sound.

HECTOR'S DOLPHIN (Cephalorhynchus hectori)

This small, often inconspicuous, endemic showed reasonably well around the boat off Taiaroa Head.

HOOKER'S SEA LION (Phocarctos hookeri)

Hauled out on a beach just inside the inlet at Taiaroa/Aramoana.

NEW ZEALAND FUR SEAL (Arctocephalus forsteri)

Seen on nearly half of our days.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here's the group in downtown Auckland on our final morning of birding, as we waited for the ferry to Tiritiri Matangi. This kiwi wasn't in any of our field guides, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Totals for the tour: 131 bird taxa and 8 mammal taxa