Birds

A chance to experience New Zealand native birds in their natural habitat

You are welcome to download a full Kapiti Island Bird list. Kapiti Island has been one of New Zealand’s most visited places for bird watchers and keen learners of New Zealand history. As a world-renowned bird sanctuary, and as a result of years of conservation efforts, it is blessed with an abundance of native and endangered species like Little Spotted Kiwi, Takahe, and the cheeky Kaka who have not survived so well on the mainland.

Kapiti Island Nature Tours is the only commercial venture on the island and creates wonderful opportunities to view the birds, including a unique overnight Kiwi spotting experience. This experience is your best chance of seeing Little Spotted Kiwi in their natural habitat.

For really keen “birders” and ornithologists, a visit to Kapiti Island will be a rewarding and memorable experience. As one of New Zealand’s only publically (limited) accessible nature reserves, free of introduced pests and predators, visitors will see many endemic species that are already extinct on the mainland of NZ – see full list of birds on the Island. This opportunity is not possible in most of mainland NZ, and is restricted to less than a handful of offshore islands. Keen “birders” will have great access and interaction with the widest range of species in thriving regenerating forest, all at one easily accessible site.

As a visitor to Kapiti Island you are free to wander and experience New Zealand’s feathered treasures. However, as a wildlife sanctuary, you are expected to follow strict guidelines that will help protect our native species. You will be informed of these guidelines once you have booked to visit the Island.

Many pelagic bird species are seen on the waters around Kapiti Island, including Albatross, Mollymawks, Shearwaters, Skuas and Petrels.

Here we list some of the rarest birds on Kapiti Island and below is also a full bird list.

Quicklinks: Little Spotted Kiwi | Kaka | Saddleback | Weka | Takahe | Kereru

Little Spotted Kiwi

Little Spotted Kiwi (UK) (Apteryx owenii – Latin)
» Listen to the Little Spotted Kiwi’s call

Quiet and placid by nature the Little spotted Kiwi was the most familiar Kiwi to the early settlers of New Zealand. The introduced predators soon preyed upon this species and they became very uncommon.

In 1913 five birds were released on Kapiti Island and the 1000 Kiwis plus now on Kapiti are believed to be their descendents.

Endemic

Kiwis are only found in New Zealand. The flightless bird has hair-like feathers, has nostrils at the tip of its beak and well developed hearing. Their vision is poor and they avoid bright light. At dusk you can hear the male calling the female.

Kapiti Island is the only place in the world where you can see the Little Spotted Kiwi at night in the wild.

Kaka

Kaka (UK) Kaka (Maori) (Nestor meridionalis – Latin)
» Listen to the Kaka’s call

The Kaka is a large brown bush parrot that is curious and always looking for food. Be aware that when you’re outside on the deck of the lodge a Kaka could fly up to you and grab something from your plate. The beautiful crimson Pohutukawa is loved by the Kaka. They search the flowers for honey and nibble on the flower wires. The attached video of the Kaka shows a Kaka landing on the shoulder of the cameraman. Look at the beautiful red spot underneath his wings when he spreads them.

Kaka family members

The Kaka is one of the three species of endemic parrots in New Zealand. You won’t find them anywhere else in the world. His family members are the Kea and the Kakapo.

Bare in mind that Kapiti Island is a 1,965 hectare of nature reserve and that the areas that can be visited are only the North end of the Island and the Trig tracks that lead to the top of the Island in the middle.

Kaka conservation

The Kaka have been fed in the past by caretakers but since it made the birds more aggressive to visitors this practice was discontinued from the 1990s.

The New Zealand Kaka is considered vulnerable (CITES II). It has greatly declined, in part from habitat loss, in part because of introduced wasps, possums and bees, which compete with the New Zealand Kaka for honeydew, which is excreted by scale insects. Research has shown that this honeydew is very important for breeding birds, especially those breeding in southern beech forests. The difficult nature of controlling the wasps makes the New Zealand Kaka’s future very uncertain. A closely related species, Nestor productus, the Norfolk Island Kaka, became extinct in 1851.

Saddleback

Saddleback (UK) Tieke (Maori) (Philesturnus caranculatus - Latin)
» Listen to the Saddleback’s call

The Saddleback or Tieke belongs to New Zealand’s unique wattlebird family (Callaeidae), an ancient group which includes the endangered Kokako and the extinct Huia. It is a medium sized bird, and adults of both sexes have similar plumage. The bird’s main feature is a conspicuous chestnut-coloured saddle on its back, but it also has chestnut on the tip of its tail, a black bill, black legs, and orange, “fleshy” wattles either side of its throat.

Saddleback conservation

The North Island variety of the Saddleback is still threatened. During the 1970s and the 1980s Saddlebacks were regularly released on Kapiti Island but failed to become established because of attacks by rats. Since the eradication of rodents the number of Tieke fledglings has increased significantly which suggests they thrive on Kapiti Island.

Saddleback sound

The sound of the Saddleback is distinctive and you can hear loud short sharp notes as well as melodious calls. They are noisy and vigorous when looking for food. Look for fantails in their ‘slipstream’ as they prey on disturbed insects.

Weka

Weka (UK) Weka (Maori) (Gallirallus australis - Latin)
» Listen to the Weka’s call

The Weka is a flightless bird and very curious. Their entertaining antics make them popular with visitors.

Weka are very protective of their own eggs and always one or both parents are close to the nest. Weka are known for their variety of food. They eat fruit and insects but also young birds and even mice and rats. The concern of Weka eating young Kiwi is waived since both the population of Little Spotted Kiwi on Kapiti Island and Weka seem to have balanced.

Weka varieties

There are different varieties of Weka in New Zealand.

On Kapiti Island a special variety can be seen. The Stewart Island Weka was released as a pair on Kapiti Island but only the male survived. A female of the North Island variety was obtained and released and all the Weka on Kapiti are the hybrids from these two different species.

Takahe

Takahe (UK) Takahe, Moho (Maori) (Notornis mantelli - Latin)
» Listen to the Takahe’s call

The Takahe is the big brother of the Pukeko, but the Takahe is flightless and two to three times heavier and more robust. Here on Kapiti Island they are more or less tame. Having no predators on the Island makes Kapiti the perfect place to regenerate their flock.

Almost extinct

Takahe are almost extinct. There are around 280 Takahe left worldwide. Predation by stoats and the competition for food by Red Deer were the main reasons for their decreasing numbers. They raise only one brood per year with an average of two eggs.

Geographical spread

Takahe used to be found on the mainland of the Kapiti region and in  the Murchison Mountains of Fjordlands. They are now very rare and we are extremely plesaed with the population on Kapiti Island.  It’s is easy to encouter Takahe on the Island as they walk around the premises and the Nature Lodge. They are one of the key bird attractions for visitors.

Kereru

New Zealand Pigeon (UK) Kereru, Kukupa (Maori) (Hemiphaga novaseelandiae - Latin)
» Listen to the Kereru’s call

The Kereru is a big pigeon adorned in iridescent greeny-mauve features and flashing ruby eyes,  feet and bill. The New Zealand Pigeon (Kereru) eats fruit and are found among forests with fruiting trees – especially podocarp. Native karaka and puriri fruit are also on their diet list.

Kereru lay one egg and the chick is fed on regurgitated ‘pigeon milk’ – a protein-rich secretion from the parents,  followed later by fruit pulp.

Endangered

Possums were big competitors of the woodpigeon. They not only eat their egg but also feed on the same food. Large quantities of berries are eaten by the Kereru. Since the eradication of possums on the Island, they have  increased in numbers again.

In history, Kereru were killed for food by humans and their feathers were used for making cloaks.

Alone

Unlike most pigeons Kereru breed and roost alone. During the winter season single birds or pairs defend their feeding territories. Over the summer territorie break down.

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See the list of birds on the Island