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New Zealand - Land of Birds

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

New Zealand was once a land of birds. Is it still today?

These birds were flightless as they had no predators on the ground; they roamed the land freely. Millions of years have since passed and our native birds have adapted to fly once again. Introduced predators now hunt on the forest floor and humans are slowly taking away their homes, in order to build homes of their own…

Our birds won’t give up without a fight though and have amazing, unique adaptations to help them survive in New Zealand, today. Learn all about them below:


One of the most commonly seen birds is the Piwakawaka, also known as the Fantail. This small bird has a fan shaped tail to enable it to dart quickly when it’s flying. It’s tail adaptation allows it to move swiftly in different directions so it can catch it’s insect prey.

Did you know? It’s one of the few birds in New Zealand that has been able to adapt successfully to an environment greatly altered by humans. The secret to it’s success is its ability to produce lots of young, along with it’s broad diet of insects; it’s not a fussy eater which makes surviving a lot easier!


The Ruru, or Morepork, is a native species of owl. It has big eyes, to let as much light in as possible and help it see at nighttime. The Ruru is nocturnal and uses more than just its eyes to “see” in the dark; it has extremely sensitive hearing enabling it to know precisely what’s going on around it.

Did you know? The Ruru nests in holes in trees or among rocks and roots. Although they’re known to hunt small rats and mice they are threatened by larger creatures such as possums and stoats.


The Tui is most well known for it’s distinctive birdsong. It also has another unique adaptation to enable it to drink the nectar of flowers. It has a curved bill (beak) and a long tongue that is frayed at the end, like a brush, enabling it to reach deep into flowers for the nectar.

Did you know? Some native plants have evolved alongside the Tui and have a harmonious partnership, known as symbiosis. The flowers of these native plants produce nutritious nectar to attract the Tui. The pollen of the plants then transfers to the Tui. When the Tui flies off, once it’s had its fill of nectar, the pollen is spread throughout the forest; enabling the plant to reproduce. Nothing beats teamwork!


Another bird that helps native plants reproduce is the Kereru, commonly known as NZ’s native pigeon. The Kereru is the only bird large enough to be able to swallow berries from trees such as the Karaka, Tawa and Taraire. The Kereru digests the berries, leaving only the seeds, which it then disperses throughout the forest. The Kereru needs berries for food and the trees need the Kereru in order to reproduce. A match made in heaven!

Did you know? The Kereru disperses the seeds by excretion. In other words the trees’ survival is dependant on poo!


Bird watching and listening is still a thing!

Keep an ear out next time you’re outside; how many different bird calls can you hear?

Can you see any bird life and can you identify any native birds?

Share your findings with us, photos, snippets of birdsong, drawings!

We’d love to see! Tag us @beautifulmanukau


While you’ve been safely tucked away in your bubble, Mother Nature has had some time to flourish.

Our natural environment has been restoring itself while it’s been left untouched.

Mother Nature still needs a helping hand to help our NZ birds thrive once again, will you join her?

You can make a difference by:

  • Planting native trees in your garden.

  • Keeping an eye out for community planting initiatives and being part of them!

  • Standing up to pests by setting traps where possible and accessorising your cat’s collar with a bell, to warn off birds.

  • Sharing this knowledge with our tamariki to become kaitiakitanga.

Images of students at our Eye on Nature practice school days 2020.


Vocabulary List:

Predators An animal that preys on others.

Native Plants and animals that naturally live in a particular area. They have come to exist there without any human intervention.

Adaptations Can be both physical and behavioural. Adaptation is the process of change by which a plant or animal becomes better suited to it’s environment, over time. Prey The prey is the creature or plant that the predator eats.

Nocturnal Active at nighttime.


Content based on Auckland Council Biodiversity Team's lesson plan for Eye on Nature 2020 School Days.

Learn more about the Biodiversity Team's work!

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