Birds of the Wairarapa and where to see them
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Field guide to the birds of Onoke Spit

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Australasian Gannet (Sula serrator)

Description: Large brilliant white birds with buff orange heads and black trailing edges and tips of wings. Several may dive repeatedly into a shoal of fish in company with and . The numbers breeding at the Cape Kidnappers colony in Hawke's Bay are increasing significantly.

Habitat: Solitary birds seen cruising off-shore. Make spectacular dives from 15 metres up into the water to catch fish.

Little Black Shag (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris)

Description: Small totally black shag about the same size as but with longer slimmer beak and shorter tail. Often feed together in flocks where birds appear to cooperate in "herding" fish before diving in unison to catch them.

Habitat: Look for birds perched on branches and structures out in the lake.

Size: 60 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

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

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

Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia)

Description: Large white wading bird with long black spoon beak, black facial skin and small yellow patches above the eyes that look like strange eyelids. Not as tall as a , but much bulkier. Feeds in water by sweeping slightly open beak from side to side. Silent except at breeding colonies.

Habitat: Seen in small flocks on the edge of lakes. Individuals occasionally fly over Onoke Spit in March.

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