Native birds you will encounter in the Gardens

Native birds in the Gardens

We're particularly keen to encourage more native birds to visit or live in the Gardens. Many tui come and go, spreading out across Taupō township, chasing each other, seeking nectar. Several kererū are using the gardens most of the year. In March and April you will see them eating the red berries of miro trees, while in spring they nibble the young shoots and flowers of the kowhai trees. In times of drought, most birds will congregate near the sources of water we provide for them, like the pond in the Hebe Garden. These watering holes are good spots for bird-watchers. We hear some visitors travel from an hour away to observe birds in the Gardens. We will be installing bird-feeding stations around the ring road over the next year or so, offering syrup and fruit. We also provide seeds for introduced species, particularly finches and the Californian Quail. 

If you want to do the same in your area, here are some guidelines: Forest & Bird feeding stations

The Department of Conservation has some information on Identifying NZ birds  commonly seen around NZ, including voice calls.  More locally, Greening Taupo has a great roll-call of local bird species and Neville Parminter has compiled some notes on many of these commonly seen birds

Meanwhile, the garden volunteers will be planting and encouraging more native trees and shrubs to help native birds through the seasons, see this helpful table

Native wood pigeon - kererū - Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae

Kererū are big birds. In fact they are one of the largest pigeons in the world. They weigh about 650g and are about 50cm long. The feathers on their back and head are green, but can look purple in the sunlight. They have white feathers on their chests. 

Kererū are found only in New Zealand, which means they are what is called 'endemic'. You can spot them in forests, parks, reserves and gardens all over New Zealand, but they are most common in the forests of Northland, the King Country, Nelson and the West Coast. Before humans and their accompanying predators came to New Zealand there would have been flocks of hundreds of kererū in forests all over the country.

Kererū spread the seeds of over 70 native forest plants, including kahikatea and rimu. Now that birds like the huia and piopio are extinct, the kererū is the only native bird large enough to eat the big fruit of some of our important native forest trees, like tawa, karaka, taraire, miro and puriri.

These birds fly long distances to feed. This makes them really good at distributing seeds. After eating the fruits of the forest, they fly away and drop their faeces somewhere else. A seed drop with nutritious fertiliser!

If there were no kererū, there would be no spread of these seeds in the forest, which would be a disaster for our native trees!

The nests these birds make are untidy platforms of sticks in forks of trees or in tangles amongst some vines. The female lays just one egg in the nest, which both parents take turns to keep warm for a month before it hatches. It takes both adults to bring the chick through to the fledging stage, meanwhile they are vulnerable to introduced predators like rats and possums. 

Kererū don’t sing like a lot of our native birds, instead they make a soft “coo” sound. You are more likely to notice a kererū when it’s flying because of the loud “whooshing“ noise their wings make. They are clumsy at landing so if you hear a bird crash-landing in a tree, it’s probably a kererū!

A kererū chick on the nest (Photo by Abel Tasman Backpackers)

Striking kereru images taken by Eddie Hutt in the gardens


Fantail - piwakawaka - Rhipidura fuliginosa

The fantail is one of the few native bird species in New Zealand that has been able to adapt to an environment greatly altered by humans. Originally a bird of open native forests and scrub, it is now also found in exotic plantation forests, orchards and gardens. At times, fantails appear far from large stands of shrubs or trees, and they have an altitudinal range that extends from sea level to the snow line.

Cats, rats, stoats and mynas are as great an enemy to fantails as they are to other native birds. Of all the eggs and chicks fantails produce, only a few survive and grow up.

However, the secret to fantail's relative success compared to other native birds is its ability to produce lots of young. Some chicks are therefore likely to escape predation and populations can bounce back quickly after a decline. Its broad diet of small insects also makes the fantail resilient to environmental change, because certain insect populations increase in disturbed and deforested habitats.

Photo credit: Courtney Lynch, visiting from Auckland

Fantails use their broad tails to change direction quickly while hunting for insects. They sometimes hop around upside-down amongst tree ferns and foliage to pick insects from the underside of leaves. They seldom feed on the ground.

Fantails use three methods to catch insects.

  • Hawking: used where vegetation is open and the birds can see for long distances. Fantails use a perch to spot swarms of insects and then fly at the prey, snapping several insects at a time.
  • Flushing: used in denser vegetation. The fantail flies around to disturb insects, flushing them out before eating them.
  • Feeding associations: trampers are familiar with this method: the fantail captures insects disturbed by movement. They frequently follow silvereyes, whiteheads, parakeets and saddlebacks, as well as people.

Kaka - Nestor meridionalis

While sightings of kaka are rare in Taupō township, they are recovering strongly in the nearby Pureora state forest (inland from Western Bays, Taupō) after decades of pest control and conservation work. We are hopeful that if any kaka find their way into the Gardens, they will feel safe and might stay for a while!

Pureora Forest kaka

Silvereye/waxeye/white-eye - tauhou - Zosterops lateralis

Silvereye were self- introduced in the 1800's and now have a wide distribution throughout New Zealand. They have made the forest their home and are now among the most common bird in suburbia too.  The Māori name is tauhou, which means 'stranger' or, more literally, 'new arrival'. Since there is no evidence that it was artificially introduced, it is classified as a native species. Slightly smaller than a sparrow, the silvereye is olive-green with a ring of white feathers around the eye. Males have slightly brighter plumage than females. They have a fine tapered bill and a brush-tipped tongue like the tui and bellbird.  Silvereyes mainly eat insects, fruit and nectar.

Photo credit: Fred King, visiting from Taranaki

Birdcall track

Australian Eastern Rosella

Eastern Rosellas sometimes appear in pairs flying over the gardens and can be hard to spot sitting still. As orchardists will know, they are keen on fruit. The wild population in NZ probably originated from escaped caged birds. This photo was taken by Eddie Hutt

Tui - Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae novaseelandiae

The Tui is primarily a forest dweller but has adapted to human settlement and is quite happy in the gardens, as long as there are ample trees and shrubs to provide nectar, berries and insects. Tui nest in November and December, and chicks leave the nest within 19-23 days. They are among the first birds sounding off in the dawn chorus, with a beautiful range of calls including bell-like notes. Noisy and halting fliers, they are often seen heading out of the gardens in spring, to feed on Kowhai and other nectar and berry sources in the township.

Photo credit: Eddie Hutt