WILDLIFE Birds of Stewart Island / Rakiura
New Zealand’s third-largest island is famous for its rare and endangered birds. Here's some of the unique species that call this avian utopia home...
New Zealand bellbird | Korimako Anthornis melanura
This songbird, has a deep olive-green body, wine-red eyes and striking blue-black notched tail and wings. The ringing notes of its song resembles the chiming of distant bells. Feeding predominantly on nectar, it has a short, curved bill with a brush-like tongue to reach deeply into flowers.
Stewart Island weka Gallirallus australis scotti
One of New Zealand’s most iconic flightless birds, the quail-like Stewart Island weka is extremely confident, often approaching humans with its trademark stride. This stocky weka is chestnut brown with light brown edging around its darker inner blade feathers, reddish-brown eyes, a strong short beak and short sturdy legs. Pairs perform vocal “coo…eet” musical duets.
Red-crowned parakeet | Kākāriki Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae
Named for its distinctive red forehead and fore-crown, this parakeet’s plumage is predominantly bright green, with some wing feathers a rich cyan blue, and cobalt blue or red underwings. A social species, it is often seen in pairs or groups and communicates with a characteristic laugh-like call.
New Zealand fantail | Pīwakawaka Rhipidura fuliginosa
This attractive bird’s long black and white fanned tail is not only pretty, but practical, too. When foraging in foliage for invertebrates to eat, it fans its tail (and flicks its wings) to frighten hidden prey into moving, making it visible. A multi-coloured sooty brown with a lighter cinnamon-coloured breast and belly, a brown back and rump, prominent white “eyebrows” are also distinguishable features.
Kaka | Kākā Nestor meridionalis
A large, stocky parrot growing up to 44cm in length and weighing up to 400g, the kākā is olive brown with a white crown, scalloped neck feathers, mustard cheeks and a deep crimson stomach. It’s very vocal, with a wide range of boisterous calls and is surprisingly acrobatic for its size.
Stewart Island robin | Toutouwai Petroica australis rakiura
Also known as the South Island robin, this photogenic species is incredibly inquisitive. Both sexes are great songsters, but especially males, who sing loudly for minutes at a time, often from a high perch. Both males and females expose a small white tuft of feathers above the base of their beak to communicate distress.
Yellowhead | Mohua Mohoua ochrocephala
A sparrow-sized forest songbird with a canary-yellow head, breast and upper belly, brown wings and tail, white lower belly, and jet-black eyes and beak. The mohua flits nimbly between branches in tree canopies with a characteristic machine gun–like social chatter.
New Zealand pigeon | Kererū Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae
A local favourite, this large, conspicuous pigeon is distinctively coloured with an iridescent green-purple head, blue-green back and wings, and a purplebronze neck, mantle and wings. With no vocals other than a warning call, it uses a distinctive whooshing sound when in flight to communicate with other birds.