While New Zealand’s human inhabitants are working feverishly to save many endangered endemic bird species, there are many other species of endemic birds that are thriving. True to the unique nature of New Zealand itself, its most common birds are anything but common.
Let’s start with the ducks.
PARADISE SHELDUCK/PUTANGITANGI – First of all this duck doesn’t even look like a duck – its large body is more representative of a goose. Second, the female shelduck is the one with the most vibrant feather coloring, while the male is smaller and more drab.
It also appears that the female shelduck is more pragmatic than its mate. These birds mate for life and stay close together while feeding, etc constantly calling out to each other. However, if death comes a calling, the reactions of the birds are diametrically opposed. The female will quickly look to hook up with another male. If a male duck loses its partner, it will mourn, not eat and eventually die. While the female may appear “heartless” she is actually insuring the future of her species.
SCAUP – Not only does this small duck look like a bath toy, but it has such an expressive face that I instantly fell in love with it. New Zealand scaup are quite unique Dark and squat, they float high on top of the water like a rubber ducky. Scaup are diving ducks and spend a lot of time underwater where they can travel long distances. I am happy that they came to the surface long enough for me to catch a few photos:
BLACK SWAN – There is a happy ending of sorts for the black swans of New Zealand. When the first humans settled in the area, the black swans were plentiful, however by the time the Europeans arrived, they were no longer extant. In the 1860’s they were reintroduced and with the help of natural recolonization the black swan species now has a strong foothold on the islands. And they are exquisite:
TUI – This bird belongs to the honeyeater family (nectar drinkers) and happily for this species they are plentiful and not threatened. Still they were one of the more difficult birds to find in the wild so I only managed the below shot:
Here’s a clearer photo courtesy of New Zealand Birds online
PIGEON/KERERU – I literally stood agape when I came across this bird. While its face and body shape are very similar to our ubiquitous New York City pigeon, the comparison stops there.
The New Zealand pigeon is HUGE
No the kereru isn’t on steroids. Here are some kereru facts:
- Kereru are large birds and can measure up to 20 inches from tail to beak, and weigh about 1.5 pounds
- Their lifespan is approximately 10 years and they breed slowly with only 1 egg per breeding season.
- Kereru numbers are declining albeit slowly through habitat loss and introduced predators. The kereru was traditionally hunted for its meat and feathers but hunting kereru is now illegal.
- Perhaps due to their size and also the shape of their wings, these pigeons are very noisy fliers.
Can you imagine what our statues, trees and edifices would endure if the kereru decided to visit its cousins?