Birds of the Wairarapa and where to see them
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Field guide to the birds of Oporua Floodway

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New Zealand Dabchick (Podiceps rufopectus)

Description: Small brownish water bird which dives. Smaller than any duck with rounded body, small head and short sharp beak. Dives for food. Must fly at night between lakes as they shift around but overland flight never observed. Run across the water with wings outstretched splashing on the surface if suddenly disturbed. May also escape by swimming under water. Carries newly hatched chicks on back for first few days.

Habitat: Found on sheltered water of lakes, farm dams and oxidation ponds.

Size: 30 cm

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

Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus)

Description: Secretive large mottled brown bird. Habitat loss with wetland drainage has reduced numbers critically. Give deep "booming" calls in breeding season. In flight, legs trail like a heron but head and neck drawn more into the body.

Habitat: Solitary and rarely seen. Look carefully for birds skulking or standing motionless with beak directed skyward on lake edge. in or close to raupo. On the way along the levee keep a watchful eye out in or around raupo beds close to the track.

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.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)

Description: Heron-like bird which appears brown at a distance with a very down-curved beak. In good light, the iridescence of the wings is evident. Flies with stiff wingbeats and outstretched neck and beak.

Habitat: Prefers shallow marshes and lake edges. Single birds have been occasionally seen on Lake Wairarapa.

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