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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.

    NEW ZEALAND

    Photograph of Saddleback

    A Saddleback on Tiritiri Matangi Island by Jon Hornbuckle.


    Best Wildlife in New Zealand

    Mammals
    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).

    Birds
    Six endemic families; five species of Kiwi (North Island Brown (North Island), Little Spotted (offshore islands such as Kapiti and Tiritiri Matangi), Great Spotted (northwestern South Island), Okarito Brown (central west coast of South Island) and Southern Brown (southwestern South Island and Stewart Island), New Zealand Parrots (such as Kea and Kaka), New Zealand Wrens (such as Rifleman), 'Whiteheads' (including Pipipi), Stitchbird and New Zealand Wattlebirds (Kokako and Saddleback); Little Blue, Fiordland Crested and Yellow-eyed (mostly Nov-May) Penguins, Weka, Wrybill, 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, White-faced Storm Petrel, other endemics such as New Zealand Storm Petrel, Paradise Shelduck, Blue Duck, shags, New Zealand Falcon, Takahe, Red-breasted Dotterel, South Island and Variable Oystercatchers, Black Stilt, Black-billed and Red-billed Gulls, Black-fronted Tern, New Zealand Pigeon, New Zealand Bellbird, Tui, Grey Gerygone, Tomtit, New Zealand Robin and Fernbird; as well as Brown Quail, Great Crested Grebe, 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, White-faced Heron, Australasian Bittern, Royal Spoonbill, Swamp Harrier, Baillon's and Spotless Crakes, Double-banded Plover (mostly Nov-Mar), Masked Lapwing, Black-necked (White-headed) Stilt, Caspian, Fairy and White-fronted Terns, Brown Skua, Shining Bronze Cuckoo (mostly Nov-Mar), Long-tailed Koel (mostly Nov-Mar), Southern Boobook (Morepork), Sacred Kingfisher, Grey (New Zealand) Fantail, Welcome Swallow, Silvereye and many introduced Eurasian species. Also a chance of (Southern) Buller's Albatross, Mottled Petrel (mostly Nov-Mar), Antarctic Tern and Grey Noddy (Ternlet).

    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.

    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.

    Plants
    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 Wildlife in New Zealand

    Photograph of Dusky Dolphins

    Dusky Dolphins at Kaikoura by Peter Alfrey.

    Best Times for 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. 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 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.

    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. Helm, 2010.

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


    Apps etc.

    Birds of New Zealand.

    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 Guides and Tours 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 in New Zealand

    Some Organized Tours 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.