Birdlife in Abel Tasman National Park


Known for its friendly ‘cheet cheet’ call and energetic flying antics, the aptly named fantail is one of the most common and widely distributed native birds on the New Zealand mainland.

It is easily recognized by its long tail which opens to a fan. It has a small head and bill and has two colour forms, pied and melanistic or black. The pied birds are grey-brown with white and black bands.


Tūī are common throughout New Zealand in forests, towns and on off-shore islands. They are adaptable and are found not only in native forests, bush reserves and bush remnants but also in suburban areas, particularly in winter if there is a flowering gum about.

These attractive birds can often be heard singing their beautiful melodies long before they are spotted. If you are fortunate to glimpse one you will recognise them by their distinctive white tuft under their throat, which contrasts dramatically with the metallic blue-green sheen to their underlying black colour.

New Zealand’s native pigeon

New Zealand’s native pigeon, also known as kererū, kūkū and kūkupa and wood pigeon, is the only disperser of large fruits, such as those of karaka and taraire.

The kererū is a large bird with irridescent green and bronze feathers on its head and a smart white vest.The noisy beat of its wings is a distinctive sound in our forests. The pigeon is found in most lowland native forests of the North, South and Stewart/Rakiura islands and many of their neighbouring islands.


Most New Zealanders can easily recognise the bellbird by its melodious song, which Captain Cook described as sounding ‘like small bells exquisitely tuned’.

Well camouflaged, the bellbird is usually heard before it is seen. Females are dull olive-brown, with a slight blue sheen on the head and a pale yellow cheek stripe. Males are olive green, with a purplish head and black outer wing and tail feathers.

Paradise ducks

The paradise shelduck is New Zealand’s only shelduck, a worldwide group of large, often semi-terrestrial waterfowl that have goose-like features. Unusually for ducks, the female paradise shelduck is more eye-catching than the male; females have a pure white head and chestnut-coloured body, while males have a dark grey body and black head.

Paradise shelducks are commonly observed flying in pairs or grazing on pasture. They are very vocal birds, with males giving a characteristic ‘zonk zonk’, while females make a more shrill ‘zeek zeek’ while flying or as a warning to intruders.


Pūkeko are probably one of the most recognised native birds in New Zealand with its distinctive colourings and habit of feeding on the ground. It is found all over New Zealand.

Commonly seen along marshy roadsides and low-lying open country, the bird’s range has increased with agricultural development. Unlike many other native birds, the pūkeko has adapted well to new habitats, such as grassed paddocks, croplands and even city parks, a necessity brought about by disappearing wetlands. However, the pūkeko is essentially a bird of swampy ground, lagoons, reeds, rushes and swamps.


Oystercatchers are stocky birds with bright eye-rings and long colourful bills. Their diet is much more varied than their name implies. There are three species in New Zealand.

The pied oystercatcher or torea is the most common oystercatcher in New Zealand, numbering around 112,000 birds in 1994.The New Zealand subspecies (Haematopus ostralegus finschi) is the South Island pied oystercatcher or SIPO. It has a black head and upper surfaces, and a white belly.The variable oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor, torea or toreapango) is found on rocky and sandy beaches. It is rare – there were around 3,500 birds in 1994, and they are found only in New Zealand.With a population of only 220 birds in 2004, the endemic Chatham Island oystercatcher (Haematopus chathamensis) is endangered.This species is confined to the Chatham Islands and South East and Pitt islands. They measure 48 centimetres and weigh 600 grams.

Sea gulls

New Zealand has three species of gulls. More than two million black-backed gulls live around New Zealand’s coasts, rivers and near-shore islands. At 60 centimetres long, they are the largest of the gulls living in the country. They have white bodies, black wings, and a yellow bill and legs. They feed around coasts and scavenge food inland.

Red-billed gulls have white and grey bodies. The bill and legs are red. They scavenge for food around city parks and rubbish tips as well as feeding at sea and along the shore.

Black-billed gulls are found only in New Zealand. They are white and grey, with a black bill.

The information above is from Department of Conservation and Te Ara. Please check their websites for more details.