32 native birds of New Zealand: Meet our feathered friends

Discover our most memorable NZ native birds and prepare to see and hear our feathered friends as you explore our beautiful country.

New Zealand’s geographical isolation may make it harder to visit but it is also the reason we are known for our diverse native animals and plants.

Aotearoa’s unique flora and fauna have captivated people from all over the world. From listening to stories of the extinct giant moa birds that once trampled through ancient forests, to being aware of a few dangerous animals to keep an eye out for, and admiring the smallest penguins in the world, our birdlife is truly something special.

And after millions of years of evolution, we’ve become home to 85 endemic land birds.

However, it isn’t all good news.

When European colonisers arrived, they didn’t bring just themselves. They also brought the rats, stoats and possums that have grown to become one of the most dangerous threats to our native wildlife.

While it is still possible to see our precious wildlife out and about in the wild, some are easier found at one of the many reserves and sanctuaries dotted around the country.

And the first step to spotting birds is learning how to identify them!

Take a look at our comprehensive list of native birds and listen as you explore New Zealand’s great outdoors.

A brown Kiwi bird pecking on seaweeds at the beach during nighttime.
A brown kiwi on Stewart Island.

Identifying birds in New Zealand

Whether you’d like help identifying specific birds, or would like a way to document the species you see, the Merlin Bird ID app is a great tool.

It’s free to use, allows you to identify birds by photograph or description, and can be used all around the world.

What’s more, it’s free to download and use! We highly recommend this app especially for first time visitors who love birdwatching.

Thanks to Chris Powell, one of our wonderful NZTT community members, for this recommendation.

New Zealand Native Birds

Kiwi

The kiwi is undoubtedly the most famous animal in New Zealand. It is characterized by loose, hair-like feathers, and surprisingly stocky legs.

There are five different species of kiwi in New Zealand, and they’re considered very culturally important to the country – we even go as far as to call those from New Zealand ‘Kiwis’. As a result, these birds are consistently protected against environmental changes and human interference to keep them safe from extinction.

Though these nocturnal birds are tricky to spot, you’ll have the chance to see them in the wild in a number of locations, including Stewart Island, Ōkārito (near Franz Josef), the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary (in Regional Auckland) and in Northland.

If you’d like to see them during daylight hours, your best shot is to visit a zoo or wildlife centre. You’ll find kiwi at the Franz Josef Wildlife Centre, the National Kiwi Centre [discounted] in Hokitika [discounted], Orana Wildlife Park and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve (both in Christchurch), or the Auckland Zoo.

Conservation status: Vulnerable and near threatened, depending on the species.

A brown kiwi bird with its long beak walking near a log.
The North Island brown kiwi, Apteryx mantelli, is the most common kiwi in New Zealand.

Wandering Albatross / Toroa

Wandering albatrosses are among the most impressive New Zealand animals.

Like the equally gorgeous royal albatross, the wandering albatross has an impressive wingspan that allows it to glide gracefully through the skies. Incredibly, their wings can reach an enormous 3 metres wide, making them one of the bird’s most distinguishing features.

They are typically grey and white with a pinkish bill, but you won’t generally hear them making noise when they’re at sea. However, if you happen to be near a breeding ground, you’ll hear them trumpeting, groaning, and rattling!

Conservation status: Vulnerable.

A white-feathered wandering albatross waddling in the blue waters.

Bellbird / Korimako

If you’re looking for New Zealand animals with beautiful voices and birdsong, then you’ll want to tune into the bellbird.

Otherwise known as the korimako, these birds have gorgeous, light green coats and are known for having an extreme taste for nectar.

They’re typically found in New Zealand’s forested areas, scrubs, and occasionally even in urban parks in the North, South, Stewart, and Auckland Islands.

If you’d like to stand a chance of spotting them, you’ll have the best luck at dawn or dusk.

Credit: Avenue

Conservation status: Least concern.

A small green and yellow bird perched on a branch, with its face having dark grey feathers.
Bellbird. Photo credit: Richard Ashurst.

Blue Duck / Whio

The blue duck is an endangered NZ native. At best guess, there are only 2500 to 3000 left in the wild. If you are lucky enough to spot one, it will likely be in a fast-flowing river in the mountainous regions of the North and South Islands.

These New Zealand animals are typically recognised by their blue-grey colour and dark grey legs, but you may also hear them coming thanks to the extremely shrill whistle noise that they emit.

It’s worth noting that this sound only comes from the males though. Interestingly, female ducks respond with a low and raspy growl.

Though you mightn’t spot one in the wild whilst travelling in Aotearoa, you will recognise them from our $10 bills.

Credit: Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai.

Conservation status: Endangered.

A blue duck/whio with blue/grey feathers on its body and wings, reddish brown on its breast and flat-tip beak waddling in the waters.
A blue duck/whio. Photo credit: Richard Ashurst.

Tūī

Though tūī may at first appear black, their stunning iridescent blue, green and bronze feathers, along with their distinctive white throat tuft make them quite unlike any other bird.

These boisterous birds are also known for their beautiful (and unique) calls. Much like a parrot, they can make a wide variety of sounds, including clicks, cackles, creaks and groans. Incredibly, they can even be taught to replicate human speech.

Found right around New Zealand, tūī are most often found in the North Island, on the west and south coasts of the South Island and on Stewart Island.

They are particularly fond of nectar but they will also eat fruit, insects and pollen. In the springtime, they can be found drinking nectar from New Zealand flax bushes. This nectar will sometimes ferment, resulting in drunken tūī flying about!

Credit: Marshelec.

Conservation status: Least concern.

A beautiful tūī bird with white feather tuft at the neck, distinctive white throat tufts, and a metallic blue-green sheen on the wings and tail feathers standing beside a bird cage.
A beautiful tūī. Photo credit: Richard Ashurst.

Fantail / Pīwakawaka

As you might expect from its name, the fantail is widely recognised for its enormous, fanned tailfeathers.

The feathers are this bird’s most impressive feature, but they also have a proud golden chest that can be spotted from afar.

Unlike other New Zealand animals, the fantail can be found in several different parts of the country as it’s successfully adapted to the constantly changing environment.

Although the fantail is one of the country’s more beautiful birds, it is sometimes considered a negative omen by Māori. It was believed to have caused the death of Māui (a key demi-god in Māori mythology) so some believe that it brings with it news of recent or impending death. Others, however, believe that they are passed whānau coming to visit.

Whatever you believe, keep your eyes peeled for this sweet little bird.

Conservation status: Least concern.

A fantail bird standing on a branch with its greyish head, white eyebrows, slightly brown back, brown breast and belly, white and black bands across the upper breast, and long black and white tail

Kererū

The kererū is a wood pigeon that’s far more stunning than a traditional street pigeon.

Don’t believe us? Look out for their incredible luminescent blue, green, and purple feathers – you’ll soon be blown away.

These birds can be found flying around native forests in New Zealand, though they have trouble landing on branches as they’re not the strongest fliers, largely due to their massive size.

If you’re not heading into the forest, you’ll also be able to spot them roaming through rural (and occasionally) urban areas throughout New Zealand. Listen carefully as they take off, as the ‘wooshing’ sound of them picking up speed is quite something.

Like the tūī, kererū love eating fermented berries, so you’ll occasionally spot them falling out of trees, fat and drunk!

Conservation status: Least concern.

Kereru bird with hues of green feathers, white underbelly and a distinctive reddish beak, perched on a tree branch.
A native kererū or native wood pigeon. Photo credit: Richard Ashurst.

Kea

The kea is a parrot that’s endemic to New Zealand and it’s a real favourite here. It’s typically found in alpine areas, sub-alpine scrub, and herb fields around the South Island.

These birds are large in size and very distinctive. They’re extremely strong fliers and are characterised by their olive-green body and scarlet wings. They are also believed to be the most intelligent birds going – something that can cause challenges in the South Island, where they’ll raid cars and backpacks.

Their battle cry can be slightly painful on the ears as it’s incredibly high-pitched, so be sure to keep this in mind before getting too close to these charming parrots.

Known as the ever-cheeky kea, these birds really are a highlight amongst New Zealand wildlife.

Conservation status: Endangered.

Credit: Department of Conservation.
A large olive-green Kea bird with a curved beak and light reddish feathers in the underbelly standing on a wooden handrail.

Kākā

Related to the kea, the kākā is a stunning parrot that’s native to New Zealand.

Smaller than the kea, you’ll recognize this bird by its olive-brown feathers, grey-white crown, red-orange underwing and deep crimson belly. Just like its cousin, it’s also known for pilfering pretty possessions from tourists while they’re not looking (they’re essentially New Zealand’s very own magpies).

If you fancy meeting these sneaky birds, you’ll find them on the Hen and Chicken Islands, Little Barrier Island, Kapiti Island, Ulva Island and Codfish Island. An urban population is also flourishing in Wellington thanks to the work done by Zealandia.

Conservation status: Endangered.

The native bird Kaka with a brownish-red and grey plumage, curved beak, and distinct facial feathers perched on a tree branch hidden within the leaves.

Kākāpo

Another wonderful parrot that we’re endlessly proud of in New Zealand is the kākāpo. It’s considered a highly endangered species which makes it all the more treasured.

These taonga (treasure) are massive flightless birds. Living on the ground, these nocturnal birds have a range of personalities – some are playful, whilst others love exploring. They generally all love their food though and are solitary animals.

As there are just over 200 of these birds left in the world (and they only breed every two or three years), they’re carefully protected by the Kākāpō Recovery Programme.

You’ll be unlikely to see one of these stunning birds in the wild, but very occasionally opportunities do come up. Let’s hope that their breeding programme does well, so we can all enjoy them well into the future.

Conservation status: Critically endangered.

Credit: Mnolf.

Did you know? The kākāpo is also related to the kea and kākā?

A rare Kākāpo bird with its moss green feather mottled with yellow and black colours, black eyes, and grey beak looking at the camera.
A rare kākāpo. Photo credit: Jake Osborne.

Rifleman / Titipounamu

If you’re looking for truly adorable New Zealand animals, consider the search over with the rifleman.

This bird is featherlight and known for its small size and surprisingly powerful wing-flicking movement.

They’re usually found in the North Island mountain ranges and in parts of the South Islands, but we’ve also seen them in Rotorua forests (when out with Rotorua Canopy Tours).

If you’re fortunate enough to see one, you’ll notice they’re about the size of a ping-pong ball, so they’re pretty distinctive! Keep your ears tuned into their high-frequency calls while trekking through NZ too.

Conservation status: Least concern.

A tiny, olive-green Rifleman bird standing on the ground with a pointed beak, round dark eyes, and short tail feathers, white underbelly, and bright green head and back.
The tiny rifleman. Photo credit: Ben.

Swamp Harrier / Harrier Hawk / Kāhu

The harrier hawk (which is also known as a swamp harrier, or by its te reo Māori name, kāhu) is the largest bird of prey in New Zealand. They can be found foraging for food throughout most of New Zealand, particularly over open landscapes.

Although they’re beautiful to look at, these magnificent birds are also handy for keeping introduced pests like mice, rats, and rabbits under control.

Conservation status: Least concern.

A Harrier Hawk tucking its black-tipped wings, with brown feathers on its head and body, a hooked beak, and sharp talons, and white feathers on its lower body standing on the brown grass.
Photo credit: Shellie Evans.

New Zealand Falcon / Kārearea

Sadly, the kārearea (or New Zealand falcon) is our most threatened bird of prey.

Only found in Aotearoa, this incredible bird is the fastest you’ll find in the country – and boy, do they put on a good show! Though you might be lucky enough to see them in the wild, we recommend heading along to Wingspan in Rotorua to meet their beautiful falcons up close.

Conservation status: Threatened.

New Zealand falcon Fern Kārearea flapping its wings to land with its black curved beak, white feathers under it, sharp talons, and brown and white feather markings on its wings and body.
Photo credit: Andy Frost.

New Zealand Parakeet / Kākāriki

Kākāriki is a species of parakeet typically found forested areas in forested areas around the country – you do need to be pretty lucky to see them though.

The most commonly found subspecies are a striking emerald green colour with an impressive crimson forehead. But you’ll also find the yellow-crowned and orange-fronted parakeets soaring through NZ’s skies if you keep your eyes peeled – these two are less commonly found now though, so you’ll need to keep a good lookout. If you don’t see them, you might hear their rapid chatter that sounds like ‘ki-ki-ki-ki’.

These beautiful birds are generally found by themselves or in pairs, though in autumn and winter they are sometimes known to form small flocks.

Conservation status: Near threatened, critically endangered and least concern, depending on the species.

Kākāriki green bird with a red crown, red markings around its eyes, and bright green feathers on its body perched on a tree branch.
The stunning green feathers of our kākāriki. Photo credit: Linsday.

Morepork / Ruru

The ruru (or morepork) is New Zealand’s only endemic native owl. It is usually found in the evening and night, in forests throughout the mainland.

These owls are small, dark, and are often spotted in local urban parks and vegetated suburban areas. You’ll likely hear them before you see them. They get their English name from the sound they make – a distinctive ‘more-pork’ call. They also make a sound that can be confused with kiwi.

In Māori tradition, these owls are said to act as guardians and ancestral spirits to the living, so keep an eye and ear out on your travels if you’re looking for a blessing.

Conservation status: Least concern.

The iconic streaky brown and white feathers of Morepork Bird with its large golden eyes, black pupils and small curved beak.
Portrait of New Zealand’s iconic morepork, Ninox novaseelandiae.

Barn Owl

The barn owl is one of the New Zealand animals that is technically Australian, but as they made their own way across the ditch and have successfully bred here, they’ve become a native species. They are, in fact, our newest native bird of prey.

They’re pale, medium-sized, and are known for their delicate spots and markings that line feathers.

Silent fliers, they have incredible flexibility in their necks and are recognised by their rather ominous natural screech.

They sure are gorgeous!

Conservation status: Least concern (but uncommon in New Zealand).

Pro tip: You can meet a beautiful barn owl at Wingspan in Rotorua. They are doing amazing mahi (work) to support conservation in Aotearoa and are well worth supporting.

Pūkeko

If you’re visiting New Zealand, you’ll be sure to see some pukeko. They’re commonly seen and are instantly recognisable thanks to their beautiful blue and black colouring and distinctive red frontal shields.

There are five recognised subspecies of this bird, and they’re found throughout New Zealand.

If you’re trying to scope them out, you should hang around sheltered freshwater streams, vegetated swamps, and roadside drainage ditches.

Conservation status: Not threatened.

Puketo bird running on the grass with its long skinny legs, deep blue underbelly, black upper part feathers, and red beak.
Pukeko are commonly found in New Zealand. Photo credit: Russell Street.

White Heron / Kōtuku

White herons are difficult to find as they’re rare, however, if you’re lucky enough to spot one, you’ll agree that these splendid white birds are among New Zealand’s most beautiful animals.

As they’re not usually seen out in the wild, you may want to visit the breeding site around Ōkārito Lagoon in Westland where they’re heavily protected (and where you can also see kiwi at night).

Conservation status: Nationally critical.

A white heron with a long neck and yellow pointy beak walking on the waters.

Stitchbird / Hihi

The stitchbird is one of the rare New Zealand animals that are extremely tricky to spot.

There is only one colony of these birds naturally surviving on Little Barrier Island. Fortunately though, there are now small managed populations on Tiritiri Matangi and Kapiti islands, as well as at the Zealandia Sanctuary in Wellington and a few other locations. Keep your eyes peeled for the rapid movements and subtle colouration of these very special birds.

Even if you can’t see them, you may be lucky enough to hear their gorgeous birdsong echoing through the trees.

Conservation status: Vulnerable.

A stitchbird having a black head and neck, white feathers on its side of the head, and yellow feathers banded across the breast to the upper part of its wings, with a blue tag on its legs while standing on a branch.
A hihi/stitchbird. Photo credit: Geoff McKay.

North Island Robin / Toutouwai and South Island Robin / Kakaruwai

North Island and South Island robins are very similar looking. They’re extremely confident birds that are never afraid to flit right around visitors, so you’ll be sure to get a good look at them if you’re fortunate enough to cross paths.

The North Island robin is usually found in scrub and forest habitats. With surprisingly long legs, you’ll notice they have slight colour variations, but they’re usually light grey in colour. Interestingly, are also highly territorial.

The South Island robin is a much darker grey and can be found in back-country areas where they’re often seen foraging and eating ripe fruits in the spring and summer months.

If you’re tramping and there are robins around, you’ll notice them following you, trying to scoop up little insects stirred up by your footsteps.

Conservation status: Least concern.

A small South Island Robin in the forest with its dark grey head and upper body and white underbelly standing on a tree.
A South Island robin.

Weka

The brown-plumaged weka (not to be confused with our native insect species called wētā) is another one of Aotearoa’s iconic flightless birds.

Just like the kea and kākā, they can be incredibly curious about humans and our belongings, often stealing items and investigating them under the nearest cover.

There are four sub-species of weka found across New Zealand: from the North Island weka which can be found on Russell Peninsula and by Hauraki Gulf, the western weka in the South Island, the buff weka on Chatham and Pitt islands, and finally the Stewart Island weka.

If you’re trying to keep an eye out for them, it might be easier to listen out for their repetitive calls, usually heard at dusk.

Conservation status: Not threatened.

Credit: Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai.
The flightless bird Weka covered in golden yellow feathers with black patches around it standing on a rock.
Photo: Wānaka Water Taxi.

Takahē

Although they can be easily mistaken for their distant relative, the pūkeko, takahē are much larger and have a more iridescent plumage.

These dinosaur-like birds were thought to have been extinct until they were rediscovered in 1948 in Fiordland’s Murchison Mountains.

After intensive conservation efforts, there are now over 400 takahē spread out across multiple sanctuary sites and pest-free islands.

Did you know? Takahē can poo up to nine metres a day because of their highly fibrous diet.

Conservation status: Threatened — Nationally vulnerable.

The flightless Takahē bird having red beak, navy blue feathers on its head, neck and underside, teal green colours on its back, and brownish to peacock blue on its wings.
Photo: Auckland Zoo.

Tomtit

These adorable little birds are similar to robins with their small size, large heads and short bills.

There are five subspecies scattered around Aotearoa, some with very distinct colouring compared to others.

In the North Island, the Māori name for them is miromiro while in the South Island, they are called ngirungiru.

They are mostly found in forests or dense shrubland but because of their size, it might be easier to hear them than see them!

Conservation status: Not threatened.

Credit: Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai.
A small black Tomtit but, with yellow and white belly feathers, a small patch of white feathers above its beak, wings, and tails sitting on a dry branch.
Photo: digitaltrails.

Saddleback / Tīeke

The distinctive tīeke was been aptly named due to the brown saddle-like patch on their backs. Part of the wattlebird family, they also have bright reddish-orange wattles on either side of their beaks.

According to Māori myth, tīeke gained its band of colour when it angered the demigod Maui by refusing to bring him a cool drink of water. Angered by the saddleback’s disregard, Maui seized the bird, singeing its feathers with the heat of his hand.

They are rather active foragers so you might catch them burrowing into a curious leaf pile or flitting through the branches.

Conservation status: Recovering.

Pro tip: We saw a number of tīeke on Rotoroa Island (in the Hauraki Gulf) and at Tāwharanui Regional Park. Both are near Auckland.

A black saddleback bird sitting on a branch with its brown feathers in the shape of a saddle on its back extending to the wings and tails, and bright red wattles.
Photo: Geoff McKay.

Sacred kingfisher / Kōtare

As the name implies, sacred kingfishers can be found in coastal and freshwater habitats.

With their bright green-blue backs and long black bills, they can often be spotted perched on powerlines or high vantage points.

Although kōtare are an eye-catching species, they are known for having a range of rather harsh calls.

Conservation status: Not threatened.

Credit: Territorial calls, Stewart Island, January 1975, Afternoon, Francis de Hamel, McPherson Natural History Unit Sound Archive.
A blue kingfisher bird sitting on a branch with its turquoise and rust-coloured feathers, a long beak, and distinctive yellow neck and underbelly.
Sacred kingfisher. Photo: digitaltrails.

Whitehead / Pōpokotea

Whiteheads are social songbirds that have white heads and underparts, and black eyes and bills.

Unlike the yellowhead / mohua, their more threatened cousins in the South Island, whiteheads lay their eggs in tightly woven nests.

They now thrive on pest-free islands like Kapiti and Little Barrier Islands and can be found in tall dense forests across North Island.

Conservation status: Not threatened.

Did you know? Pōpokotea are the only hosts to the long-tailed cuckoos that lay their eggs in a brooding whitehead’s nest. The cuckoo chick then displaces the other eggs when it hatches so it can monopolize the whitehead’s attention.

A little whitehead bird - with its white body and head, brown back and tail feathers, and black eyes sitting on a branch in the bush.
Photo: digitaltrails.

Yellowhammer / Hurukōwhai

These vibrant birds can sometimes be seen feeding on freshly laid grass seed on lawns or farms.

Brought over by Acclimatisation Societies in the 1860s, yellowhammers have now made a home for themselves in Aotearoa. In fact, they are considered to be rather common across the mainland, unlike where they originated from in the UK where they are now a Red List species.

Although they can be easily confused with the endemic yellowhead / mohua, these birds live in the open country and have longer tails and dark streaking.

Conservation status: Introduced and naturalised.

A small yellowhammer with its bright yellow head and underparts sitting on a plant.
Photo: Francesco Veronesi.

Grey warbler / Riroriro

Riroriro are one of New Zealand’s lightest birds, weighing in at only 6 grams.

Their olive-grey plumage makes them hard to find but it’s easy to identify them by their reddish eyes.

Māori tradition says that hearing the song of the riroriro is an indication to begin planting in spring.

This is reflected in the following proverb (whakataukī) scolding a lazy person who doesn’t plant crops but later comes for the harvest:

I whea koe i te tangihanga o te riroriro, ka mahi kai māu?

Where were you when the riroriro was singing, that you didn’t work to get yourself food?

Teara.govt.nz

You might be able to spot them hovering by a forest canopy as they hunt for insects. Like many other songbirds, you’re most likely to hear them coming first with their long trills!

Conservation status: Not threatened.

Credit: Territorial song, Spencerville Plantation eastern Christchurch, September 1971, 1035, Les McPherson, McPherson Natural History Unit Sound Archive.
A small grey and brown grey warbler bird with off-white underbelly sitting on a dry branch.
Photo: digitaltrails.

Silvereye / Wax-eye / Tauhou

These beauties are self-introduced, having flown over from Australia in the 1800s. To acknowledge this, they were named tauhou in Māori, meaning “stranger” or “new arrival”.

Once silvereyes reach adulthood, the characteristic ring of white around their eyes grows more distinct, making it easier to differentiate them from the similar grey warbler.

Found across all of Aotearoa, they are now one of our most abundant birds – and they’re pretty cute!

Conservation status: Not threatened.

A small waxeye bird with white linings around its eye, yellow head and wings, silver white feathers around the neck and back, and white underbelly with reddish hue on the side sitting on the top of a rose stalk.
Photo: Bernard Spragg.

Eastern Rockhopper Penguin / Tawaki Piki Toka

Eastern rockhoppers are found in the subantarctic islands of New Zealand (including Campbell, Auckland, Antipodes and Macquarie islands). They’re among the world’s smallest penguins at just 20 inches (50cm) tall.

These adorable creatures can dive an incredible 300 metres underwater in their search for prey and can also hold their breath for minutes at a time. They’re also amazing climbers, often found nesting in caves on cliffs.

You’ll be unlikely to see these guys as they’re not found near the mainland, but should you venture further afield to see them, you’ll immediately recognise their blood-red eyes, orange beaks, distinctive yellow markings, and pink feet.

Conservation status: Vulnerable and endangered, depending on the species.

A rockhopper penguin walking on dry land with its pinkish feet, white underbelly and underwings, black feathers on its wings, neck and back, yellow crest feathers above the eyes, and longer yellow and black feathers on the side of its head.
Photo credit: kuhnmi.

Little penguin / Kororā

As their name suggests, kororā are the world’s smallest species of penguin. They only grow to just over 25cm but their noisy warbling more than makes up for their small size!

Kororā, previously called little blue penguins, can be identified by their distinctive dark blue and white coats.

Unfortunately, they’re at great risk due to human disturbance with dogs being their greatest predators, especially during breeding season when the penguins come ashore.

You might want to consider a trip to the South Island if you’re keen to visit some of the more popular spots to go penguin watching.

Dunedin, in particular, is a great place to see little blues (along with lots of native animals and birds).

Conservation status: At risk — Declining.

Little Blue Penguins walking in Caroline Bay with colour tags on their left flippers, slate blue back, white underbelly, and curved beak.

Yellow-eyed penguin / Hoiho

One of the rarest penguins in the world, these tall, heavy penguins can only be found in Aotearoa, especially along the Otago Peninsula. You can recognise them by the yellow band that crosses over the back of their heads like a pair of yellow goggles.

The penguins’ shrill call at breeding sites has resulted in it being named hoiho in Māori, meaning noise shouter. Under dense vegetation, the male and female penguins work together to build bowl-shaped nests made of twigs, grass and leaves.

Although hoiho are known for being shy, you might be able to find them at one of our penguin-spotting locations.

Conservation status: Threatened — Nationally endangered.

Three yellow-eyed penguins walking on the beach with its pink feet, white underbelly, yellow band around their eyes, and brown to black head.
Yellow-eyed penguins walking along the beach. Photo: travelwayoflife.

If this list has inspired you to learn more about our living-and-breathing treasures, cast your vote for the annual Bird of the Year competition that opens every October.

Now that you’ve had a crash course in New Zealand’s many beautiful and unique birds, it’s time to put your bird-watching binoculars on and start identifying!

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