Spotting the locals.
One of the main reasons to visit Tiritiri Matangi is to see rare New Zealand wildlife. Our islands have no native mammals, apart from bats and dolphins. So, our birds have developed to fill all sorts of niches. In this picture, you can see a Hihi - or Stichbird. I had never seen one in real life before my trip to Tiri. I was also very lucky to see the extremely rare and endangered Kokako - twice in fact on the day! Shame I couldn't get a decent picture!
- Hiking and Walking
- Family Travel
Some extensive grassy areas, especially along the highest parts of the island, were allowed to remain unforested to provide habitat for grassland species like the Takahe.
They also seem to provide favoured picnicing areas for day-trippers!
Forests now cover 60% of the island, providing habitat to most of the bird species.
Much of this forest is the result of extensive reforestation efforsts by volunteers some 20 yeears ago and is therefore still somewhat low and doesn't look completely natural.
Still it is already dense enough, and walking the trails through it is not only a good way to see most of the island's bird species but also to escape the heat during the day!
Another very rare New Zealand endemic which has been reintroduced to Tiritiri, this shy, drab brown bird is resident and breeding at certain water-holes scattered on the island. It is usually seen resting under the vegetation at the water's edge. If you can't find any by yourself, the rangers and volunteers should know about their whereabouts.
This species has been introduced to New Zealand from Australia, and why it has been allowed to remain on Tiritiri is a bit of a mystery to me - I guess it was judged to be harmless.
In any case, while usually a shy species, this quail can sometimes be observed quite close-up on the roads of the island.
These beautiful birds are now very rare on the main islands of New Zealand, but have fared better on off-shore islands with no predators. They still had to be reintroduced to Tiritiri, and were in fact the first birds to be released here. There are now a fair number of them on the island, but tend to be quite shy. They can be seen on forest edges, and also at the water-trays if you sit around patiently in quiet.
New Zealand Pigeon
Anther endemic that has done relatively well on the mainland too, this large pigeon, like the Tui has actually survived on Tiritiri without having to be reintroduced.
Still, it is somewhat scarce and elusive on the island, and you will have to watch out for it!
It is usually seen quietly sitting under the dense canopy.
New Zealand Robin
This endemic species is still found in good numbers in forests even on the main islands of New Zealand, but some birds from the North Island subspecies have been reintroduced to Tiritiri all the same. They may not look like much in their drab gray feathers, but are still fun to encounter, as they are among the boldest of birds, often actually approaching people walking on the trails.
Another great endemic rarity, the Saddleback has also become extinct on the mainland, with the last native populations surviving on Hen Island off Northland, a few islets off Stewart Island. The birds on Tiritiri are descendants of the Hen Island birds, representing the north Island subspecies. There are now hundreds of them on the island, making them easy to see throughout the forested areas.
A relatively small but still quite colorful species easily seen in the forests throughout the island, the Stitchbird is another New Zealand endemic that has fared so badly in the past that it has become extinct on the mainland, with the last population surviving on remote Little Barrier Island. From there some have been relocated to Tiritiri Matangi where they have thrived, and there are now hundreds on the island.
Pukeko (Purple Moorhen)
Well, if you are keen on being able to say you've seen a takahe, make sure it was not a Pukeko! These much more widespread and common birds live in the same, grassland habitat on Tiritiri Matangi, but are usually much more shy and less approachable.
Watch out for the differences: this is a much more slender, more brightly coloured bird than the takahe.
One of the few endemic species that continues to fare well in New Zealand is the Tui.
It also happens to be one of my personal favourites!
It is among the easiest endemics to see on the mainland and fairly easy to see on Tiritiri, too.
It is one of the species that has always survived here and didn't have to be translocated.
They are found in the forests, and sitting in front of one of the water-trays you are sure to have a good luck at several.
This rare and beautiful bird is another New Zealand endemic. It still survives in a few remote forests of North Island, but seeing it there is quite a challange. A few pairs have been relocated to Tiritiri where they now breed and are much easier to see. Not really easy though, and some luck is needed. They are usually encountered in pairs in the forest close to the ridge on the western side.
They also have a beautiful song.
Just to the north of the jetty, a few boxes have been set up along the trail following the coast as shelters for Blue Penguins. Their cover can be lifted up to see if there are any birds in residence. While these are wild penguins in any sense of the word, the experience is hardly overly exciting.
OTOH, if you stay overnight and walk the trails in the dark, you may unexpectedly come across penguins up in the forests on the hillside! This is a far more interesting way to see them.
Probably the most famous bird of New Zealand after the kiwis, the takahe was once believed to be extinct. Then a small surviving relict population was discovered in a remote part of the South Island, from where a few birds have been taken for captive breeding and relocation on predator-free island like Tiritiri.
As such, this bird is not native here, and doesn't even behave like wild birds do - more like chicken. An old, tame male called Greg often meets incoming visitors at the jetty or the beach, hoping for handouts of food. Others hang around the lighthouse, running up to the rangers to be fed. For a slightly more "natural" encounter, try and locate some of the takahe living away from these areas, notably in the grasslands of the island's north.
Either way, seeing such a rare bird, wild or not, is a highlight of a visit!