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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

  • other wildlife in the world
  • Photograph of Tui

    A Tui on Tiritiri Matangi Island by Jon Hornbuckle.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in

    Photograph of Antipodean/Gibson's Wandering Albatross

    Seabirds can be seen at close range off Kaikoura on South Island, spectacular seabirds such as Antipodean or Gibson's Wandering Albatross above, and Westland Petrel and Salvin's Albatross below, all superbly captured by Lars Petersson.

    Photograph of Salvin's Albatross

    Photograph of Shore Plover

    A Shore Plover on the island off Rangitoto near Auckland by Lars Petersson.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in New Zealand


    Mainland and nearshore island Endemics
    Six endemic families; five species of Kiwi (North Island Brown occurs on several offshore islands and North Island where it can be seen in Rangihoua Heritage Park near Kerikeri; Little Spotted on offshore islands where it has been translocated, and can be seen on Kapiti and Tiritiri Matangi with overnight stays; Great Spotted on northwest South Island and introduced to Little Barrier Island off North Island; Okarito, which can be seen in Okarito Forest near the central-west coast of South Island where all the birds are fitted with radio transmitters and therefore trackable; and Southern Brown in southwest South Island and on Stewart Island where it can be seen on organised night walks); New Zealand Parrots (such as Kea and Kaka); New Zealand Wrens (Rifleman and South Island Rock Wren); 'Whiteheads' (Pipipi, Whitehead and Yellowhead); Stitchbird; and New Zealand Wattlebirds (North Island Kokako, and North Island and South Island Saddlebacks).

    Other endemics include New Zealand (Little) Grebe, Paradise Shelduck, Blue Duck, Brown Teal, New Zealand Scaup, Bronze, New Zealand King (Rough-faced), Foveaux, Otago (Bronze) and Spotted Shags, New Zealand Falcon, South Island Takahe, Weka, Shore Plover, Wrybill, New Zealand (Red-breasted) Dotterel (South Island subspecies which occurs only on Stewart Island may be a full species), South Island and Variable Oystercatchers, Black Stilt, Black-billed and Red-billed (Silver) Gulls, Black-fronted Tern, New Zealand Pigeon, Malherbe's and Yellow-crowned Parakeets, New Zealand Bellbird, Tui, Grey Gerygone, New Zealand (Grey) Fantail (North Island and South Island subspecies may be full species), Tomtit (North Island and South Island subspecies may be full species), North Island and South Island Robins, and New Zealand Fernbird.

    Little Blue, Fiordland Crested and Yellow-eyed (mostly Nov-May) Penguins, three species of Wandering Albatross and both species of Royal Albatross, Black-browed, Campbell, (Northern) Buller's, Grey-headed, Salvin's (Shy) and White-capped (Shy) Albatrosses, Grey-rumped, New Zealand, White-faced and Wilson's Storm Petrels, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Black (Parkinson's), Cook's, Pintado, Westland and White-chinned Petrels, Broad-billed and Fairy Prions, Buller's, Flesh-footed, Fluttering, Hutton's, Little and Sooty Shearwaters, Common Diving Petrel, Australasian Gannet, Caspian, Fairy and White-fronted Terns, and Brown Skua. Also a chance of (Southern) Buller's Albatross, Mottled Petrel (mostly Nov-Mar), Antarctic Tern and Grey Noddy (Ternlet).

    Great Crested Grebe, White-faced Heron, Australasian Bittern, Royal Spoonbill, Little Pied, Little Black and Australian Pied Cormorants, Swamp Harrier, Australasian Swamphen (Pukeko), Double-banded Plover (mostly Nov-Mar), Masked Lapwing, Black-necked (White-headed) Stilt, Kelp Gull, Red-crowned Parakeet, Shining Bronze Cuckoo (mostly Nov-Mar), Long-tailed Koel (mostly Nov-Mar), Southern Boobook (Morepork), Sacred Kingfisher, Welcome Swallow, Silvereye and Australasian (New Zealand) Pipit.

    Introduced Species
    Brown Quail, Australian Magpie, Skylark, Common Myna, Common Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Yellowhammer.

    Not many more than a hundred Kakapos exist, on four offshore islands, one of which is Codfish Island, for which, like some other islands, permission is rarely granted to visit by the government's Department of Conservation.

    Sperm Whale, (Common) Bottlenose, Common, Dusky and Hector's Dolphins, New Zealand Fur Seal and New Zealand (Hooker's) Sealion. Also a chance of Killer Whale. (There are no native land mammals in New Zealand except for bats).

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Tuataras, two species of ancient animals which are not lizards but the only survivors in an order (Sphenodontia) of reptiles which occurred across the world during the time of the dinosaurs, but, apart from the two remaining species on New Zealand's offshore islands, died out over 65 million years ago. From December to March hundreds of Short-tail Stingrays usually appear in Poor Knights Marine Reserve, north of Auckland off North Island.

    The vegetation includes ancient ferny forests of podocarps festooned with epiphytes, and a highly endemic Alpine flora.

    Other Natural Wonders of New Zealand

    Central North Island Much geothermal activity including boiling mud pools and steam vents.

    Waitomo Caves Caves adorned with thousands of glowing gnat larvae, viewable on underground boat trips.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in New Zealand

    Photograph of Dusky Dolphins

    Dusky Dolphins at Kaikoura by Peter Alfrey.

    Photograph of Shy and Southern Royal Albatrosses

    A brilliant image of Shy and Royal Albatrosses together, taken from a pelagic boat trip off Stewart Island by Lars Petersson.

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in New Zealand

    Since Sperm Whales are present year round off Kaikoura the best time to visit in search of other cetaceans and birds is during the southern spring between late October and mid-December, although the warmest months are December to February (late November is the start of the 'high' tourist season). The average temperature in Kaikoura at this time ranges from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 70°F) but it is always cooler at sea so warm waterproof clothing is recommended for boat trips. The peak time for wild flowers is usually the second half of January.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for New Zealand

    The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand by B Heather and H Robertson. Penguin, 2015 (Fourth Edition).

    The Hand Guide to the Birds of New Zealand by H Robertson and B Heather. Penguin, 2015 (Second Edition).

    Birds of New Zealand: A Photographic Guide by P Scofield and B Stephenson. Auckland University Press, 2013.

    The 50 Best Birdwatching Sites In New Zealand by L Light. John Beaufoy Publishing, 2019.

    Birds of New Zealand: Locality Guide by S Chambers. Arun Books, 2014 (Fourth Edition).

    Field Guide to the Wildlife of New Zealand by J Fitter. Bloomsbury, 2018.

    Bradt Travel Guide: New Zealand Wildlife by J Fitter. Bradt, 2009.

    Apps etc.

    Birds of New Zealand.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for New Zealand

    Many trip reports, some for New Zealand, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to New Zealand. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to New Zealand' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in New Zealand

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in New Zealand

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to New Zealand

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to New Zealand include the following.