Birds of the Wairarapa and where to see them
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Field guide to the birds of Morison's Bush

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Black Shag (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Description: Our largest shag which is found worldwide. Appears black at a distance with yellowish facial skin and white cheeks. In sunlight wing feathers are coppery-bronze. They bring catch to the surface where fish are juggled until it can be swallowed head-first.

Habitat: Commonly seen on rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters actively diving for prey.

Size: 90 cm

Little Shag (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos)

Description: Small black and white shag with varying amounts of white on cheeks, throat and underparts. Some adults are entirely black, but much smaller than . Distinguished from (much less common) by short stubby yellow beak. Dries wings like and often shares nesting colony with them.

Habitat: Found on ponds, lakes, rivers and sheltered coastal waters.

Size: 60 cm

White-faced Heron (Ardea novaehollandiae)

Description: Our commonest heron. Blue grey plumage with obvious white face often called "blue heron". Nests (not necessarily near water) high in trees (often pine, macrocarpa or eucalyptus). Harsh "kraak kraak" call heard more often when breeding.

Habitat: Commonly solitary and seen on the irrigated pastures of dairy farms, but also rocky coasts, estuaries, lake margins, and rivers.

Size: 70 cm

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Description: Our commonest duck. Male has dark iridescent glossy green head separated by a white ring from chestnut breast grey brown body with black tail and rump. Female is brown with variable darker eye stripe. Inner trailing wing feathers (speculum) are blue in contrast to (with which female can be confused) which has a green speculum. Characteristically "quacking" ducks which dabble on surface for food. Flocks can cause damage to pea and cereal crops.

Habitat: Seen on most bodies of water.

Size: 60 cm

Australasian Harrier (Circus approximans)

Description: Large brown hawk. Food is a mix of live prey - small birds, rabbits and a lot of road killed carrion (possums, hares, hedgehogs). Wary birds and avoid humans.

Habitat: Usually seen soaring singly over farmland, open country or swamps. Commonly patrols roads and a lot of young birds killed by cars.

Size: 55 cm

Pukeko (Porphyrio porphyrio)

Description: Large bird with deep blue underparts, bright red beak and frontal shield, black upper parts with white under tail displayed by tail flicking as it walks. Harsh screaming call. Flies clumsily with legs trailing but tends more often to run away if disturbed. Grazes pasture and may hold some vegetable matter by one foot and eat "parrot fashion". Also takes frogs, insects and even small ducklings.

Habitat: Frequently seen in family groups foraging within the vicinity of water.

Size: 50 cm

Spur-winged Plover (Vanellus novaehollandiae)

Description: Black cap, brown back and wings, white underparts with bright yellow facial wattles (like a plastic mask). Strident rattling unmistakable calls. Slow deliberate wing beats in flight. Are early nesters from May onwards on open ground. Defends nest aggressively against the , and humans.

Habitat: Conspicuous birds of open country and farmland.

Size: 40 cm

Pied Stilt (Himantopus leucocephalus)

Description: Distinctive black and white wader with long pink spindly legs which trail prominently when flying. Nests often singly on river beds or as small colonies on muddy paddocks with some shallow water (often where stock have eaten out choumollier winterfeed). Vigorously defends nest and chicks against humans and the . Rapid "yapping" cries as they harmlessly attack you.

Habitat: Seen on rivers, lakes and pond margins.

Size: 35 cm

Banded Dotterel (Charardrius bicinctus)

Description: A starling-sized brown bird with white underparts on which are black throat and reddish-chestnut bands. Defends nesting territory vigorously against dotterels of same species.

Habitat: Inhabits sandy beaches and stony riverbeds.

Size: 20 cm

Black-fronted Dotterel (Charardrius melanops)

Description: Arrived in the Wairarapa in the 1960s via the Hawkes Bay where they first colonized from Australia. Today, our region has about 20% of the national population. Smaller than . Brown upper parts with white throat and belly. Black forehead, eye stripe, and V on breast. Red beak with black tip. Slow jerky flight shows white on the wings. Sharp "pit-pit-pit" call in flight. When the Ruamahanga floods, birds are forced off the riverbed and into Henley. Here they can be seen feeding around the lap strip of the Lake and in the muddy margins of wetland ponds.

Habitat: Feeds on muddy margins of rivers and streams. Hard to see until they move.

Size: 17 cm

Black-billed Gull (Larus bulleri)

Description: Essentially a South Island inland gull breeding on lakes and rivers and regularly breeding on Ruamahanga River bed at differing sites each year. Similar to , but adults have black beak and legs with less black on wing tips in flight.

Habitat: Feeds on rivers, lakes, wet pasture and cultivated paddocks. A small gull seen inland is most likely to be a .

Size: 40 cm

Black-backed Gull (Larus dominicanus)

Description: Our largest gull, black and white with yellow beak. Juveniles have mottled brown plumage and only attain adult plumage by 3-4 years. Numbers have increased enormously near urban centres which provide more sources of food.

Habitat: Never far off-shore, but can be seen soaring over all parts of the country including our mountain ranges. An opportunistic feeder seen on wet pastures, cultivated land, rubbish tips, sewer outlets.

Size: 60 cm

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