Kaikoura Island I Motu Kaikoura
An open sanctuary promoting wilderness education, ecosystem restoration and public recreation on an offshore island.

Bird fauna

Motu Kaikoura (Selwyn Island) in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

Bird fauna of Motu Kaikoura, New Zealand

An annotated checklist of the birds of Motu Kaikoura (Selwyn Island) in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand, is provided from surveys carried out between Dec 2006 and Jun 2008, supplemented by other recent observations. Thirty-seven species were recorded, including 25 species of land or wetland birds, and 12 species of seabirds and shorebirds. A total of 26 species were indigenous and 11 species were exotic.


 Cook's petrel. Adult in flight showing head, neck and underwing. Near Little Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf, January 2012. Image © Philip Griffin by Philip Griffin

Cook's petrel. Adult in flight showing head, neck and underwing. Near Little Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf, January 2012. Image © Philip Griffin by Philip Griffin

Cook's petrel

Cook’s petrels are small seabirds that breed on Little Barrier and Great Barrier Islands, off north-eastern North Island, and Codfish Island, near Stewart Island. They are commonly seen in large flocks off Little Barrier Island during the summer, and their calls are often heard at night during the spring and summer as birds cross over the Auckland isthmus and Northland after feeding in the Tasman Sea. They feed on small crustaceans, squid and fish, mostly picked off the ocean surface during long distance flights covering many thousands of kilometres. Cooks petrels have responded well to pest control on their main breeding islands and both populations are increasing rapidly.


 Little penguin. Adult swimming. Aorangi, Poor Knights Islands, March 1985. Image © Department of Conservation ( image ref: 10031421 ) by Rod Morris Department of Conservation Courtesy of Department of Conservation  

Little penguin. Adult swimming. Aorangi, Poor Knights Islands, March 1985. Image © Department of Conservation ( image ref: 10031421 ) by Rod Morris Department of Conservation Courtesy of Department of Conservation  

BLUE PENGUIN

As their name suggests, the little penguin is the smallest species of penguin. They are also the most common penguin found around all coasts of New Zealand’s mainland and many of the surrounding islands. Primarily nocturnal on land, they are sometimes found close to human settlements and often nest under and around coastal buildings, keeping the owners awake at night with their noisy vocal displays. They live up to their scientific name ‘Eudyptula’ meaning “good little diver”, as they are excellent pursuit hunters in shallow waters.


 Australasian gannet. Adult on water after dive. Woolleys Bay, Northland, October 2012. Image © Malcolm Pullman by Malcolm Pullman www.pullmanpix.kiwi.nz

Australasian gannet. Adult on water after dive. Woolleys Bay, Northland, October 2012. Image © Malcolm Pullman by Malcolm Pullman www.pullmanpix.kiwi.nz

AUSTRALASIAN GANNET

With its 1.8 m wing-span, the Australasian gannet is a conspicuous, predominantly white seabird that is common in New Zealand coastal waters. They can be observed feeding solitarily or in large congregations, especially near the larger colonies. Australasian gannets breed in dense colonies on coastal islands and on cliffs and beaches of some headlands of the New Zealand mainland; the breeding distribution also encompasses south-east Australia and Tasmania.


 Pied shag. Adult. Northland, January 2008. Image © Peter Reese by Peter Reese

Pied shag. Adult. Northland, January 2008. Image © Peter Reese by Peter Reese

PIED SHAG

This large black-and-white shag is often seen individually or in small groups roosting on rocky headlands, trees or artificial structures. In regions where it occurs, it can usually be readily seen about harbours and estuaries associated with cities or towns. Unlike most other shag species, the pied shag is reasonably confiding, allowing close approach when roosting or nesting in trees. It generally forages alone, but occasionally in small groups when prey is abundant.


 Little shag. Adult white-throated morph. Lake Rotorua, February 2010. Image © Tony Whitehead by Tony Whitehead Tony Whiteheadwww.wildlight.co.nz

Little shag. Adult white-throated morph. Lake Rotorua, February 2010. Image © Tony Whitehead by Tony Whitehead Tony Whiteheadwww.wildlight.co.nz

LITTLE SHAG

The little shag is the most widely distributed shag species in New Zealand, found in both marine and freshwater habitats, on the coast as well as on inland lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. It also has the most variable plumage of any New Zealand shag. The face, throat, breast and belly plumage range from completely black through to white, with a range of partial combinations in between. These pose a challenge to identification, at least until the observer becomes familiar with the little shag’s diagnostic short-billed and long-tailed silhouette, along with its small size and stubby yellow bill. Shape alone is sufficient to identify a little shag.


 White-faced heron. Adult in breeding plumage. Anderson Park, Taradale, Napier, January 2012. Image © Adam Clarke by Adam Clarke

White-faced heron. Adult in breeding plumage. Anderson Park, Taradale, Napier, January 2012. Image © Adam Clarke by Adam Clarke

WHITE-FACED HERON

The white-faced heron is New Zealand's most common heron, despite being a relatively new arrival to this country. It is a tall, elegant, blue-grey bird that can be seen stalking its prey in almost any aquatic habitat, including damp pasture and playing fields. Because it occupies space also shared with people it is usually well habituated to their presence, and may allow close approach.


 Reef heron. Adult stalking. Port Charles, Coromandel Peninsula, May 2009. Image © Neil Fitzgerald by Neil Fitzgerald www.neilfitzgeraldphoto.co.nz

Reef heron. Adult stalking. Port Charles, Coromandel Peninsula, May 2009. Image © Neil Fitzgerald by Neil Fitzgerald www.neilfitzgeraldphoto.co.nz

REEF HERON

The reef heron is a dark grey wading bird most often seen in coastal areas in the north of the North Island. One or two birds may be found patrolling a rocky shoreline or nearby estuary. Although similar to the common white-faced heron it is not seen as frequently and has slightly different feeding habits. Reef herons occur throughout Polynesia, and their prevalence in northern New Zealand may reflect their preference for warmer climates.The dark grey colour provides the bird with excellent camouflage when it is patrolling the shoreline rocks that are its main habitat. The reef heron is wary, and flies away when approached too closely. It will, however, use man-made structures for nesting.


 Brown teal. Male in breeding plumage. Waimanu Lagoons, Waikanae estuary, March 2006. Image © Roger Smith by Roger Smith

Brown teal. Male in breeding plumage. Waimanu Lagoons, Waikanae estuary, March 2006. Image © Roger Smith by Roger Smith

BROWN TEAL

The brown teal is the largest and only flighted member of the three brown-plumaged teals endemic to the New Zealand region. It is the progenitor of the flightless Auckland and Campbell Island teals but all are now recognised as separate species on account of their geographic isolation and their plumage, size and genetic distinctions. The brown teal was an abundant and widespread species 200 years ago, but became highly endangered due mainly to the impacts of introduced predators. It has responded well to management at a few locations, and can be locally common when protected from predators.


 Swamp harrier. Immature. Southland, June 2012. Image © Glenda Rees by Glenda Rees http://www.flickr.com/photos/nzsamphotofanatic/

Swamp harrier. Immature. Southland, June 2012. Image © Glenda Rees by Glenda Rees http://www.flickr.com/photos/nzsamphotofanatic/

AUSTRALASIAN HARRIER

The swamp harrier is a large, tawny-brown bird of prey that occurs throughout New Zealand. It is an opportunistic hunter that searches for food by slowly quartering the ground with its large wings held in a distinctive shallow V-shape. Adapted to hunt in open habitats, its numbers have benefitted from widespread forest clearance and the development of agriculture. Although carrion is a major component of the harrier’s diet, it also actively hunts live prey such as small birds, mammals and insects. Capable dispersers, birds from New Zealand visit islands as far north as the Kermadec Islands and as far south as Campbell Island. Known for their dramatic ‘sky-dancing’ courtship display the swamp harrier is the largest of the 16 species of harriers found worldwide.


 Brown quail. Adult. Tiritiri Matangi Island, March 2013. Image © Cheryl Marriner by Cheryl Marriner http://www.glen.co.nz/cheryl

Brown quail. Adult. Tiritiri Matangi Island, March 2013. Image © Cheryl Marriner by Cheryl Marriner http://www.glen.co.nz/cheryl

BROWN QUAIL

The brown quail was introduced to Auckland, Wellington, Otago and Southland during 1866-80, but is currently restricted to the northern North Island and its offshore islands. Along with failed releases of other quail species from Australia at the same time, it is possible that these releases contributed to the extinction of the endemic New Zealand quail through the introduction of new diseases. Tiritiri Matangi Island and Shakespear and Tawharanui Regional Parks are the most accessible places in New Zealand where brown quail are reliably found.


 Common pheasant. Adult male. Queen Elizabeth Park, September 2016. Image © Paul Le Roy by Paul Le Roy

Common pheasant. Adult male. Queen Elizabeth Park, September 2016. Image © Paul Le Roy by Paul Le Roy

RING-NECKED PHEASANT

Acclimatisation Societies released about 30 species of upland game birds throughout New Zealand, to provide sport for European colonists. Common pheasants were among the first to be released, in Wellington, Canterbury, Otago and Auckland from 1842-1877. They are established throughout open country in the North Island, with local populations topped up by ongoing releases by Fish & Game Councils and private breeders. Numbers are lower in the South Island. Hunting of pheasants and other game birds in New Zealand is managed by Fish & Game New Zealand.


 Banded rail. Adult. Great Barrier Island, January 2014. Image © Bartek Wypych by Bartek Wypych

Banded rail. Adult. Great Barrier Island, January 2014. Image © Bartek Wypych by Bartek Wypych

BANDED RAIL

Banded rail are rarely seen, as they are well-camouflaged and remain under the cover of wetland vegetation, although their footprints are often seen. They are now mainly found in mangrove and saltmarsh vegetation in the upper North Island. They have disappeared from most of New Zealand since the 1970s, but remain in coastal wetlands in the upper North Island, Marlborough and Nelson, in rush-covered areas and coastal wetlands on Great Barrier Island and in forest and shrubland on the Three Kings Islands and on four islands off Stewart Island.Banded rail (also known as buff-banded rail) subspecies are found on the Cocos Islands (Indian Ocean), Indonesia, Philippines, Melanesia, western Polynesia, Australia and New Zealand


 Variable oystercatcher. Intermediate morph adult. Northland, January 2008. Image © Peter Reese by Peter Reese

Variable oystercatcher. Intermediate morph adult. Northland, January 2008. Image © Peter Reese by Peter Reese

VARIABLE OYSTERCATCHER

The variable oystercatcher is a familiar stocky coastal bird with a long, bright orange bill, found around much of New Zealand. They are often seen in pairs probing busily for shellfish along beaches or in estuaries. Previously shot for food, variable oystercatchers probably reached low numbers before being protected in 1922, since when numbers have increased rapidly. They are long-lived, with some birds reaching 30+ years of age.The existence of different colour morphs (black, intermediate or ‘smudgy’, and pied) caused early confusion, and they were variously thought to be different species, forms, or hybrids. This confusion was compounded by a cline in morphs, with the proportion of all-black birds increasing from north to south. The colour morphs inter-breed freely and are now all accepted as being a single species. 


 Spur-winged plover. Adult. Wellington, June 2009. Image © Duncan Watson by Duncan Watson

Spur-winged plover. Adult. Wellington, June 2009. Image © Duncan Watson by Duncan Watson

SPUR-WINGED PLOVER

The variable oystercatcher is a familiar stocky coastal bird with a long, bright orange bill, found around much of New Zealand. They are often seen in pairs probing busily for shellfish along beaches or in estuaries. Previously shot for food, variable oystercatchers probably reached low numbers before being protected in 1922, since when numbers have increased rapidly. They are long-lived, with some birds reaching 30+ years of age.The existence of different colour morphs (black, intermediate or ‘smudgy’, and pied) caused early confusion, and they were variously thought to be different species, forms, or hybrids. This confusion was compounded by a cline in morphs, with the proportion of all-black birds increasing from north to south. The colour morphs inter-breed freely and are now all accepted as being a single species. 


 Southern black-backed gull. Adult. Boulder Bank, Nelson, January 2008. Image © Rebecca Bowater FPSNZ by Rebecca Bowater FPSNZ www.floraandfauna.co.nz

Southern black-backed gull. Adult. Boulder Bank, Nelson, January 2008. Image © Rebecca Bowater FPSNZ by Rebecca Bowater FPSNZ www.floraandfauna.co.nz

BLACK-BACKED GULL

The southern black-backed gull (or ‘black-back’) is one of the most abundant and familiar large birds in New Zealand, although many people do not realise that the mottled brown juveniles (mistakenly called “mollyhawks”) are the same species as the immaculate adults. Found on or over all non-forested habitats from coastal waters to high-country farms, this is the only large gull found in New Zealand. They are particularly abundant at landfills, around ports and at fish-processing plants.


 Red-billed gull. Adult. Waikanae River estuary, Wellington, September 2010. Image © Alan Tennyson by Alan Tennyson

Red-billed gull. Adult. Waikanae River estuary, Wellington, September 2010. Image © Alan Tennyson by Alan Tennyson

RED-BILLED GULL

The red-billed gull is the commonest gull on the New Zealand coast. Except for a colony at Lake Rotorua, it rarely is found inland. It is commonly seen in coastal towns, garbage dumps and at fish processing facilities. Immature adults are often confused with the closely related black-billed gull. Recently the largest colonies in different parts of New Zealand have exhibited a marked decline in numbers (i.e. Kaikoura, Three Kings and Mokohinau Islands). The bird tends to nest at the same locality from one season to the next, and offspring mostly return to their natal colony to breed.


 Caspian tern. Adult in breeding plumage. Waitangi, Northland, August 2015. Image © Les Feasey by Les Feasey

Caspian tern. Adult in breeding plumage. Waitangi, Northland, August 2015. Image © Les Feasey by Les Feasey

CASPIAN TERN

The red-billed gull is the commonest gull on the New Zealand coast. Except for a colony at Lake Rotorua, it rarely is found inland. It is commonly seen in coastal towns, garbage dumps and at fish processing facilities. Immature adults are often confused with the closely related black-billed gull. Recently the largest colonies in different parts of New Zealand have exhibited a marked decline in numbers (i.e. Kaikoura, Three Kings and Mokohinau Islands). The bird tends to nest at the same locality from one season to the next, and offspring mostly return to their natal colony to breed.


 White-fronted tern. Adult. Pahi, August 2012. Image © Thomas Musson by Thomas Musson tomandelaine@xtra.co.nz

White-fronted tern. Adult. Pahi, August 2012. Image © Thomas Musson by Thomas Musson tomandelaine@xtra.co.nz

WHITE-FRONTED TERN

The white-fronted tern is the most common tern on the New Zealand coastline, at times occurring in flocks of many hundreds or even thousands of birds. It is mainly a marine species that is seldom found far from the coast. The name ‘white-fronted’ refers to the ‘frons’ or forehead, where a thin strip of white separates the black cap from the black bill. Most other ‘capped’ terns, including the black-fronted tern, have black caps that reach the bill when in breeding plumage. The scientific name striata refers to the finely-barred (striated) dorsal plumage of recently fledged white-fronted terns, as the original description and name was based on a juvenile bird painted by William Ellis, surgeon’s second mate on the Discovery, on Captain Cook’s third visit to New Zealand.


 New Zealand pigeon. Adult perched in tree. Wanganui, August 2008. Image © Ormond Torr by Ormond Torr

New Zealand pigeon. Adult perched in tree. Wanganui, August 2008. Image © Ormond Torr by Ormond Torr

NEW ZEALAND PIGEON

This large and distinctively-coloured pigeon is a familiar sight to many New Zealanders. This is because the New Zealand pigeon (or kereru) has a widespread distribution through the country, being present in extensive tracts of native forest, and rural and urban habitats, including most cities. As well as allowing close approach, it often roosts conspicuously, such as on powerlines or on the tops of trees. The distinctive sound of its wing beats in flight also draws attention. Kereru also frequently feature on works of art, such as paintings and sculptures. However, even though it is widespread, like many forest birds its abundance is severely compromised by introduced mammals, particularly possums, stoats and ship rats. Only where these pests are not present (predator-free islands) or are controlled to low levels do kereru populations thrive.


 Kaka. Adult North Island kaka feeding on kowhai flowers. Wilton, Wellington, September 2013. Image © Jean-Claude Stahl by Jean-Claude Stahl

Kaka. Adult North Island kaka feeding on kowhai flowers. Wilton, Wellington, September 2013. Image © Jean-Claude Stahl by Jean-Claude Stahl

NORTH ISLAND KAKA

Generally heard before they are seen, kaka are large, forest-dwelling parrots that are found on all three main islands of New Zealand and on several offshore islands. Much reduced in range and abundance in the North and South islands due to forest clearance and predation by introduced mammals, kaka are most abundant on offshore islands that have no introduced mammals, or at least no stoats. They remain locally common at some sites on the main islands that are close to offshore island refuges, and have increased in abundance at others where mammalian pests have been controlled. Kaka can be found in a wide variety of native forest types including podocarp and beech forest. They are a common sight in Wellington city, having spread from Zealandia / Karori Sanctuary.


 Shining cuckoo. Adult feeding on gum leaf skeletoniser (Uraba lugens) caterpillar from gum tree. Mapua, Tasman district, October 2016. Image © Rob Lynch by Rob Lynch

Shining cuckoo. Adult feeding on gum leaf skeletoniser (Uraba lugens) caterpillar from gum tree. Mapua, Tasman district, October 2016. Image © Rob Lynch by Rob Lynch

SHINING CUCKOO

The shining cuckoo (shining bronze-cuckoo in Australia) is a summer migrant to New Zealand. It is common throughout New Zealand but it is small and cryptically-coloured and so is more often heard than seen. It has a distinctive whistling call. Two intriguing aspects of its life history are its brood-parasitic habits and the long annual trans-oceanic migration. The New Zealand subspecies breeds only in New Zealand (including Chatham Islands) but other subspecies breed in southern Australia, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and on Rennell and Bellona Islands (Solomon Islands).


 Sacred kingfisher. Immature. Boulder Bank, Nelson, June 2008. Image © Rebecca Bowater FPSNZ by Rebecca Bowater FPSNZ Courtesy of Rebecca Bowaterwww.floraandfauna.co.nz

Sacred kingfisher. Immature. Boulder Bank, Nelson, June 2008. Image © Rebecca Bowater FPSNZ by Rebecca Bowater FPSNZ Courtesy of Rebecca Bowaterwww.floraandfauna.co.nz

KINGFISHER

The sacred kingfisher is one of the best known birds in New Zealand due to the iconic photographs published over many years by Geoff Moon. These early images showed in detail the prey, the foraging skills and the development of chicks in the nest and as fledgings. Equally recognisable is the hunched silhouette waiting patiently on a powerline or other elevated perch over an estuary or mudflat which converts in a flash to a streak of green diving steeply to catch a prey item.


 Welcome swallow. Adult, in flight hawking insects. Lake Rotorua, September 2012. Image © Tony Whitehead by Tony Whitehead www.wildlight.co.nz

Welcome swallow. Adult, in flight hawking insects. Lake Rotorua, September 2012. Image © Tony Whitehead by Tony Whitehead www.wildlight.co.nz

WELCOME SWALLOW

Welcome swallows are small fast-flying birds found in open country particularly around lakes, coasts, riverbeds and ponds. Their flight is circular and darting in style, and they may be seen singly, in pairs or in flocks. Flocks often perch en masse, lined up on fences or power lines. They were named ‘welcome swallows’ because they appeared in southern Australia as a herald of spring. Due to their elegant shape and flight, and their preference for nesting around buildings, swallows are noticed and appreciated more than most other small birds


 Dunnock. Adult at singing perch. Whanganui River estuary, Wanganui, October 2008. Image © Ormond Torr by Ormond Torr

Dunnock. Adult at singing perch. Whanganui River estuary, Wanganui, October 2008. Image © Ormond Torr by Ormond Torr

DUNNOCK

Dunnocks are small brown songbirds that were introduced from England into multiple regions of New Zealand between 1865 and 1896. They are a common sight in urban gardens and open country in southern New Zealand, but are scarcer in the northern North Island. The drab appearance of dunnocks is compensated by their stunningly complex breeding behaviours.


 Eurasian blackbird. Adult male on mown lawn. Christchurch, New Zealand, October 2008. Image © Neil Fitzgerald by Neil Fitzgerald www.neilfitzgeraldphoto.co.nz

Eurasian blackbird. Adult male on mown lawn. Christchurch, New Zealand, October 2008. Image © Neil Fitzgerald by Neil Fitzgerald www.neilfitzgeraldphoto.co.nz

BLACKBIRD

The Eurasian blackbird was introduced to New Zealand, and is now our most widely distributed bird species. Adult males are entirely black apart from their yellow bill and eye-ring. Females and juveniles are mostly dark brown, slightly mottled on the belly. Blackbirds are common in a wide range of habitats including suburban gardens, farmland, woodlands and indigenous forests. Their song is given from winter to summer, with the singing male usually perched on a high branch, tree top or power line. They sing most in the early morning and evening. Blackbirds feed mostly on the ground on earthworms, snails, and insects. They also take berries while perched in foliage.


 Song thrush. Adult. Wanganui, September 2010. Image © Ormond Torr by Ormond Torr

Song thrush. Adult. Wanganui, September 2010. Image © Ormond Torr by Ormond Torr

SONG THRUSH

The song thrush is easily recognized by its speckled brown-on-cream breast. It is often heard before it is seen, as it is one of the main songsters of suburban New Zealand, with a very long singing season. Thrushes sing from a high branch, at the top of a tree or on power poles and lines. Their distinctive song comprising a wide range of notes, with each phrase typically repeated 2-3 times in succession. They are common throughout mainland New Zealand and nearby offshore islands, also Stewart Island, Chatham Islands, Snares Islands and Auckland Islands. Thrushes frequent a wide range of lowland and hilly habitats including suburban gardens, farmland, woodlands and some forests. 


 Grey warbler. Adult. Auckland, March 2014. Image © Bartek Wypych by Bartek Wypych

Grey warbler. Adult. Auckland, March 2014. Image © Bartek Wypych by Bartek Wypych

GREY WARBLER

The grey warbler is New Zealand’s most widely distributed endemic bird species, based on the number of 10 x 10 km grid squares it occupied over the whole country in a 1999-2004 survey. It vies with rifleman for the title of New Zealand’s smallest bird, with both weighing about 6 g. The title usually goes to rifleman, based on its shorter tail and therefore shorter body length. The grey warbler is more often heard than seen, having a loud distinctive song, and tending to spend most of its time in dense vegetation. 


 New Zealand fantail. North Island adult calling. Wanganui, May 2012. Image © Ormond Torr by Ormond Torr

New Zealand fantail. North Island adult calling. Wanganui, May 2012. Image © Ormond Torr by Ormond Torr

NORTH ISLAND FANTAIL

The fantail is one of New Zealand’s best known birds, with its distinctive fanned tail and loud song, and particularly because it often approaches within a metre or two of people. Its wide distribution and habitat preferences, including frequenting well-treed urban parks and gardens, means that most people encounter fantails occasionally. They can be quite confiding, continuing to nest build or visit their nestlings with food when people watch quietly. There are two colour forms or ‘morphs’ of fantail, with the more common pied morph occurring throughout its range, and the black morph comprising up to 5% of the South Island population, and occasionally occurring in the North Island.


 Silvereye. Adult. Rotorua, September 2012. Image © Tony Whitehead by Tony Whitehead www.wildlight.co.nz

Silvereye. Adult. Rotorua, September 2012. Image © Tony Whitehead by Tony Whitehead www.wildlight.co.nz

SILVEREYE

The silvereye colonized New Zealand from Australia in the 1850s, and is now one of New Zealand’s most abundant and widespread bird species. It is found throughout New Zealand and its offshore and outlying islands, occurring in most vegetated habitats, including suburban gardens, farmland, orchards, woodlands and forests. Silvereyes are small songbirds that are easily recognized by their conspicuous white eye-ring; their plumage is mainly olive-green above and cream below. It is an active, mobile species that moves about frequently, including making sea crossings.


 Tui. Adult. Dunedin, August 2009. Image © Craig McKenzie by Craig McKenzie

Tui. Adult. Dunedin, August 2009. Image © Craig McKenzie by Craig McKenzie

TUI

Tui are boisterous, medium-sized, common and widespread bird of forest and suburbia – unless you live in Canterbury. They look black from a distance, but in good light tui have a blue, green and bronze iridescent sheen, and distinctive white throat tufts (poi). They are usually very vocal, with a complicated mix of tuneful notes interspersed with coughs, grunts and wheezes. In flight, their bodies slant with the head higher than the tail, and their noisy whirring flight is interspersed with short glides.


 Yellowhammer. Adult male. Near Cape Foulwind, November 2011. Image © Sonja Ross by Sonja Ross

Yellowhammer. Adult male. Near Cape Foulwind, November 2011. Image © Sonja Ross by Sonja Ross

YELLOWHAMMER

The colourful yellowhammer is a common inhabitant of open country throughout much of New Zealand. Introduced from Britain by Acclimatisation Societies between 1865 and 1879, it has spread widely, including reaching many off-shore islands. Yellowhammers feed on a variety of seeds and invertebrates. They are frequently seen feeding on the seeds in hay fed to livestock, and also on newly-sown grass seed.


 Chaffinch. Adult male singing. Anderson Park, Taradale, Napier, November 2011. Image © Adam Clarke by Adam Clarke

Chaffinch. Adult male singing. Anderson Park, Taradale, Napier, November 2011. Image © Adam Clarke by Adam Clarke

CHAFFINCH

Chaffinches are the commonest and most widespread of New Zealand’s introduced finches, and are found in a wide range of habitats from sea-level to 1400 m. They are self-introduced to many off-shore islands. Chaffinches frequently visit suburban gardens, especially in winter, and are often seen feeding with house sparrows and silvereyes around bird-tables, on lawns and in parks. The sexes may segregate into separate flocks in winter, especially males; hence the specific name of coelebs(bachelor).


 European goldfinch. Adult male. Miranda, December 2012. Image © Tony Whitehead by Tony Whitehead www.wildlight.co.nz

European goldfinch. Adult male. Miranda, December 2012. Image © Tony Whitehead by Tony Whitehead www.wildlight.co.nz

GOLDFINCH

Goldfinches are small finches with flashes of bright yellow and red, common in open country throughout New Zealand. Introduced from Britain 1862-1883, their tinkling calls contribute to the collective noun “a charm of goldfinches”. They are mainly seed-eaters, and often gather in flocks to feed on thistle seed. Goldfinches frequently stray to outlying island groups, and are resident on the Chatham Islands.


 Common myna. Adult. Tanna, Vanuatu, July 2011. Image © Philip Griffin by Philip Griffin www.philipgriffin.com

Common myna. Adult. Tanna, Vanuatu, July 2011. Image © Philip Griffin by Philip Griffin www.philipgriffin.com

INDIAN MYNA

The common myna is a native of India, east and west Pakistan and Burma. It was introduced to many Pacific lands, including New Zealand, usually to combat invertebrate pests. Mynas are large, conspicuous passerines. A shiny black head and shoulder plumage merges into vinous brown for the remainder of the body and a large patch of white is flashed from each wing during flight. They are commonly seen deftly avoiding traffic while foraging for road-killed insects.


 Australian magpie. Adult male. Tiritiri Matangi Island, January 2017. Image © Les Feasey by Les Feasey

Australian magpie. Adult male. Tiritiri Matangi Island, January 2017. Image © Les Feasey by Les Feasey

MAGPIE

The black-and-white Australian magpie is a common and conspicuous inhabitant of open country throughout much of New Zealand. It was introduced from Australia and Tasmania by Acclimatisation Societies between 1864 and 1874, mainly to control insect pests. There are three subspecies; the black-backed, and two white-backed forms, with white-backed birds predominating in most parts of New Zealand.