New Zealand is the pelagic capital of the world with many seabirds and cetaceans. It also has around 80 endemic species of birds. Only introduced mammals are found mostly to the detriment of native birds and reptiles.
To appreciate bird watching in New Zealand one has to understand a little of New Zealand’s history. With the destruction of New Zealand’s lowland bush, dense jungle like forest, which began with the arrival here of the Polynesians a thousand years ago and was accelerated by the arrival of Europeans a couple of hundred years ago, went a good many of New Zealand’s unique birds, such as the Moa and the Huia. Although New Zealand is still a heavily forested country in the remote and mountainous areas, these forests are infested with introduced animals such as goats, deer, rats, mustelids and the Australian brush tailed possum, which pose a real threat to New Zealand’s remaining endemic birds. Until recently, it was thought that the only way to preserve New Zealand’s unique bird life was to re-establish them on pest free offshore islands. This idea has now been extended to create mainland islands within the vast conservation estate. Hopefully, this strategy will reverse the decline. As the native birds decline, the ecological niches are being filled by birds that just arrive here from Australia, birds such as the spurwinged plover, black-fronted dotterel and welcome swallow, or those introduced by British settlers.
We have so few birds here compared with, say, Australia. I would I like to say that every one of them is valued but mynas Acridotheres tristis introduced from India and magpies Gymnorhina tibicen from Australia are not easy to defend.
Tomtit Petroica macrocephala ©Ian Montgomery Birdway
However, few New Zealanders even get to see a Kiwi, let alone a Kokako or Kakapo. In most of the settled areas one sees birds introduced here from Europe in the nineteeth century, such as blackbirds, thrushes and finches. However, New Zealand does have a very high percentage of endemic birds. More than eighty five percent of all taxa are endemic. Indeed many birds have speciated into separate forms on each of the three main islands or have radicallydifferent sub-species.
Tomtit Petroica macrocephala dannefaerdi ©Ian Montgomery Birdway
It is just that they are a bit thin on the ground and therefore take some effort or guidance to see. To observe New Zealand`s endemic bird life one has to either visit the offshore islands or visit the vast conservation estate, information about which may be found on the Department of Conservation web site or the birding section of the New Zealand Birds web site.
New Zealandâ€™s rich marine environment provides for the abundance and diversity of its sea bird life. The New Zealand region extends from the subtropical waters around the Kermadec Islands to the subantarctic waters of the Campbell Plateau. Where the subtropical waters and subantarctic waters meet, the subtropical convergence, areas of upwelling are created where nutrients, fish and seabirds are abundant. One such area is along the KaikÅura coast.
There are 97 species of smaller petrels and of these 49 have been recorded in New Zealand seas. The strategic position of our islands strung across the prevailing westerly winds accounts for the many varieties of petrels found in this sector of the Pacific Ocean. The multitude of small islands scattered around New Zealand provide suitable nesting habitat for some 32 species of petrel which breed from the Kermadecs in the North to Campbell Island some 2400 miles to the south. Other species such as the blue petrel visit New Zealand waters on a regular basis. Petrels breed once a year in large colonies on remote offshore islands. However, most of the main mountain ranges in New Zealand used to support extensive petrel colonies before the advent of man a thousand years ago and the mammalian predators they brought with them.
On still nights the southern oceans can twinkle with the tiny lights of phosphorescent zooplankton rafted in millions upon the water. Since many of these animals disappear during the day, most petrels feed at night. During the summer when the sun never sets, enormous blooms of the crustacean, Euphausia superba, attract vast concourses of sea birds to the cold polar seas.
Major Source: Fatbirder
Map Source: Googlemaps™
Photo Source: © Ian Montgomery