Birds in Paradise

Waking up to the sound of birds for many people means paradise – since a large proportion of people these days live in cities hearing bird songs at home is becoming rare.

This revelation came to me over the last few days when I listened to the birds around our house at various times of the day. New Zealand used to be a bird lovers paradise – Sir Joseph Banks and many others that followed in  his footsteps would attest to this. The problem of course now is – that some of the birds that they where able to see and listen to are no longer in existence. New Zealand as so many other island nations have lost a lot of their native fauna through “alien invaders” – there are too many to name and a combination of those let to the demise and ultimate extinction of some of our most loved birds – the Huia and Moa are just two of those.

Just last week we heard the news that the Kea joined the list of threatened birds and he is not the only one.

So it comes at no surprise that some people in this country don’t know which are the native birds and which ones are not. A few months ago I remember this woman in Auckland complained to the National Newspaper that the Tui is chasing the lovely black birds away and one should do something about them…. sorry what did I miss there? The Tui is a native bird and yes they are very territorial but they do belong to this country just like the Kiwi does – the blackbird on the other hand is an “imported species”.

Tui feeding on the korari (flower) of the harakeke (flax bush)
Tui feeding on the korari (flower) of the harakeke (flax bush)

It does highlight the fact that most people here and I suppose in other parts of the world as well do not know their native environment and unless they have a chance to experience this they have a wrong perception of the truth.

So getting back to my starting line – this morning I woke up and listened to the birds around our house and I heard – the Myna (imported), the black bird (imported), a peacock (imported),  the neighbours hens (clearly imported), the Weka (oh yeah – a not so common native), the Tui (yeahhh definitely a native) and the Kingfisher (a very treasured native). During the day I can also hear and see the NZ Fantail (native and fun to look at), the  Silvereye (small and too fast to take photos off), the Kereru/Kukupa (Wood Pigeon – native)  and a myriad of ducks and sparrows and finches besides the ever prevalent seagulls and at night we often hear New Zealands only native owl – the Morepork – Ruru.

Some people here in the Bay of Islands are also lucky that they can hear (and very rarely see) our National Bird – the Kiwi. Yes we live in a Kiwi zone here in the Bay – which is why everybody is encouraged to keep their pets indoors at night and on a leash during the day.

I love watching the Tui during the day – chasing each other (and yes other birds) and doing their areal acrobatics. In the fruit season it is not uncommon to see heavy Kereru/Kukupa almost falling out of trees “drunk” – they eat over ripe fruit that ferments in their stomachs – creating alcohol…, the little fan tail that follows me around when I am in the garden and chirps away – almost having a conversation , the Weka that intends to “destroy” my garden in search of food.. they make good diggers:-). Many maori stories relate to birds as well – so ingrained they are in everyday life. Even some of our place names (in maori) have bird names in them – like our town – Kororareka.

Bottom line is that I feel very privileged to be surrounded by so many birds – and to be able to listen to them and see them in their almost natural habitat. When 74% of inhabitants in NZ live in cities – it is a rare privilege indeed.

However – there are a few other places around the country that are even more abundantly occupied by birds and I am not talking about the predator free offshore islands like Tiritiri Matangi (near Auckland) – no I am referring to Fiordland or Southland – but especially Stewart Island with its tiny island in the Bay Ulva Island – a bird lovers paradise to this day!


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