Orokonui Ecosanctuary/Birds

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Nga Manu-Birds

(class Aves or clade Avialae)

Bird definition

  • Feathers, beak - no teeth, lay hard-shelled eggs, high metabolic rate (the amount of energy used up when resting), four-chambered heart (like humans) and a lightweight strong skeleton. All modern birds have wings; moa, had no wings!

Bird Characteristics

A stylised dove skeleton. Key: 1. skull 2. cervical vertebrae 3. furcula 4. coracoid 5. uncinate processes of ribs 6. keel 7. patella 8. tarsometatarsus 9. digits 10. tibia (tibiotarsus) 11. fibia (tibiotarsus) 12. femur 13. ischium (innominate) 14. pubis (innominate) 15. illium (innominate) 16. caudal vertebrae 17. pygostyle 18. synsacrum 19. scapula 20. lumbar vertebrae 21. humerus 22. ulna 23. radius 24. carpus (carpometacarpus) 25. metacarpus (carpometacarpus) 26. digits 27. alula
  • Smart - parrots - kaka, kea, kakapo and kakariki as well as corvids (NZ raven extinct - oops) are among the most intelligent animal species.
  • Several bird species make and use tools, and many are social and share knowledge across generations - NZ examples...
  • Many species migrate - pipiwharauroa, some perform shorter acrobatic type movements in the same area - piwakawaka
  • Birds are social, communicating with visual signals, calls, and songs, and participating in such social behaviours as cooperative hunting, flocking, and mobbing of predators.
  • The majority of bird species are monogamous (married), usually for one breeding season, sometimes for many years, but rarely for life.
  • Courtship displays (male only??) enable the female to compare her prospective mates colours and skills of singing, jumping, flying etc
  • Colourisation - depth of colour can indicate
    • Age (NZ e.g??) older birds indicate ability to be resourceful
    • Food type - carotenoid orange under wings of kaka ?
  • Life span - varies from
    • short 3 years of pīwakawaka the fantail to
      • 60 year old Grandma, a Northern royal albatross who bred at Taiaroa head
  • Eggs are usually laid in a nest and incubated by the parents
    • Most chicks have a period of parental care after hatching
    • Coaxed or pushed from the nest or burrow...flap, waddle, feed
  • Birds can be found in folklore, religion, and cultures
  • Breeding - often monogamous
    • Short term - same mate for raising chicks but not necessarily be the father
    • Long term - same mate, multiple mates
  • Faeces - indicates what food they eat
  • White paste - urate (made of uric-acid crystals) is a by-product of bird kidneys
  • Dark solid waste - stool - colour from the bird's diet
    • Black blob on a squirt of liquid white - kiwi
    • Green, cylindrical plant matter with white ends - takahe
    • Brownish and seedy - kereru
    • Containing fur, bones - ruru?
      • Indicator of bird health - abnormal colours:
        • Red urate may be signs of internal bleeding
        • Brown urate may signal lead poisoning
        • Green/yellow urate may mean liver disease

Aotearoa Perspective

Birds of Orokonui


  • Endemic to New Zealand and one of only 3 parrot species of Nestoridae, the others are the Kea and Kakapo
    • Nestoridae - an ancient family of large parrots which evolved from true parrots before New Zealand broke away from Gondwana
      • This family differs from the 4 other species of endemic parrot we have in New Zealand (the kakariki) which are descended from the true parrot family
  • Formerly widespread and quite common on all 3 main islands
    • Number of kaka has severely reduced since European colonisation
      • Initially from deforestation now from introduced predators and competitors
  • Clever birds who chatter to each other in loud harsh calls
    • Laughing, whistling and "clohck"ing!
  • Flocks of kākā led by a female
    • She rounds up strays and herds flock to the next food source
  • Whakatauki
He kaka kai uta, he manga te moana
What the barracouta is at sea so is the Kaka on land,
one wrecks the net of the fisherman, the other wrecks the wood and snares of the hunter

Kaka News

Kārearea - NZ Falcon

  • Capable of flying over 100 km/h and
  • Catches prey larger than itself
  • Infrequent visitor??

Kererū - NZ Pigeon

Orokonui Kereru.jpg
  • Kererū - aka:kukupa,kuku - resemblance to sound made when cooing, kuu, kuu
  • Its roll as seed disperser especially important since moa extinction - tawa and other big berries can only be eaten by kereru - weep, weep of the tawa mamas who need their drupe babies to be spread far and wide
  • Large mouth - pineapple eater if human size
  • Frugivorous, primarily eating fruits and drupes. Also browses on leaves and buds, especially nitrogen rich foliage during breeding season e.g Kōwhai, broom
    • In what way does eating nitrogen rich food assist the kereru?
  • Plumage owes colour to Maui the trickster who tried to follow his mother by first hiding her beautiful coloured skirt, then as she plunged into dark hole Maui followed her in the form of a kereru wearing the skirt
  • Munch discard, munch discard - gulp, slide across tongue, squeeze down oesophagus and plop into the crop - the temporary food storage pouch. Then into the proventriculus another storage area that uses enzymes to break down the food. Squeezed into the gizzard, a specialized stomach constructed of thick muscular walls, which grinds up food using small pebbles. Then intestines, sausage like and to the cloaca; which is the posterior opening for seed covering of blankets - a mix of poos and wees!
  • Fast, undulating flights - wing strokes pause, swooping, half looping, noisy.
  • Foliage crash landing, bumble, tumble grab and peer about.
  • Nest - dishevelled twigs, high, just below canopy - unlucky to ever see a kereru nest
  • Pigeon milk - rhythmical pumping of regurgitation gloopity gloop, from both parents into a chick that has waited patiently for this delivery

Project Kereru Dunedin

Kiwi - Haast tokoeka

Tokoeka – 'weka with a walking stick' (Ngai Tahu) - has three geographically and genetically distinct forms: Haast, Fiordland, and Rakiura 
  • Haast tokoeka - population approx: 400, threat status: Nationally Critical (first-equal endangered kiwi) and found in the Haast Ranges, West Coast of the South Island
  • Shy, mountain-loving bird, lives in an actively managed area of the Haast ranges, a inhospitable environment of steep terrain, with frequent cold/bad weather of the mountainous South Westland
  • Most of the area in which Haast tokoeka are found is the Haast Kiwi Sanctuary - Operation Nest Egg, with a 6000ha stoat trapping programme
    • Stoats are the main cause of death for chicks
  • Orokonui has 35+ kiwi with reports of small kiwi prints in different parts of the sanctuary
  • Reddish/brown to dark brown, stumpy, no tails, straggly-hair-like feathers, a long pliable and down-curved bill, with whiskers at the base and nostrils at end - no wonder a lot of kiwi teens go emu!
  • Feathers kept oiled from a preen gland near rear, may also help bill
  • Nocturnal nature assists in feeding on invertebrates - beetles, caterpillars also eats worms, larvae, eels, amphibians as well as berries and fruit
    • Vanilla mint ice-cream, a double smidgeon of chocolate sauce - poo!
  • Hear well through ear openings
  • See well
  • whiskers sensory appendages allow for ease of navigating
  • Musky smell of Kiwi make it easy for mammal predators to track them to their burrow
  • Fire pond fenced after kiwi drowns - long pointed toes and wing stumps are no aids for swimming
  • Can smell up to 30cm below surface of ground???
  • Both parents may incubate but mainly male
  • No egg tooth on un-hatched chick beak - legs push and claw
  • Kiwi waiata

Kiwi News Kiwi in Dunedin after 130 years

Korimako - Bellbird

  • Males - olive green
  • Females - browner
  • Monogamous - pairs remain together, maintain same breeding territory, for several years
  • Egg laying September to January often raising two broods
  • Nest built mainly by the female and usually near a flowering tree
    • Loose construction of twigs and fibre and lined with moss, fine grass, feathers or wool
  • Three to four eggs laid at daily intervals - incubated by the female
    • She may be fed by the male but regularly leaves the nest to feed
      • Incubation and fledging both take about 14 days
  • Chicks fed mostly by the female
  • The female defends her nest and young, physically attacking intruders
    • She will also fall to the ground and flap away through the undergrowth to distract a predator
Hutia te rito o te harakeke, kei whea te kōmako e kō?
Kī mai ki ahau, he aha te mea nui o te Ao?
Māku e kī atu, he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata
If the heart of harakeke was removed, where will the bellbird sing? 
If I was asked, what was the most important thing in the world; 
I would reply, it is people, it is people, it is people!
  • This whakatauki (proverb) relects the Maori reference to the harakeke plant as a whanau or family group
    • The outer leaves - tupuna (ancestors); the inner leaves - mātua (parents); the most inner leaf - rito or pepe (baby)
      • Only the tupuna are cut as the mātua are left to protect the pepe
        • Without the sound of children in the world (the next generation) mankind will not survive.

Mātātā - Fernbird

  • Insectivorous
  • Early settlers called it the "swamp sparrow"
  • Almost half its length is tail
  • Ground-dwelling bird, reluctant flier, travelling mainly on foot or occasional short flights
  • Pūreke - rain cape made from harakeke/flax - te whare o te mātātā - a mātātā house
    • Mātātā nests are snug and well sheltered - often in flax
  • Māori revered the fernbird as an "oracle" or "Wise bird" (Manu tohu)

Moa (extinct)

  • Females bigger than males
  • Males most probably incubated the egg
  • Many NZ plants evolved defensive features to stop the moa from browsing on them
  • Divaricate - small-leaved shrubs and low-growing trees with densely interlaced stems
    • Stems spread apart at wide angles and leaves are often small with few available for potential browsers
      • Avoids browsing by moa
  • Links - Moa

Pipiwharauroa - Shining Cuckoo

  • Brood parasites, laying their eggs singly in nests of grey warblers
  • Eggs laid mostly in November
    • After which the adult cuckoos take no further part in breeding
      • Young cuckoos are dependent on their foster-parents for several weeks after fledging
  • Present in New Zealand in spring, summer and autumn only, either breeding or on route to or from breeding locations
    • Spend the winters in the Bismarck Archipelago (New Guinea) and Solomon Islands
    • Sometimes over-winter in NZ
  • Distinctive call

Pīwakawaka - Fantail

Fantail - Piwakawaka 0n nest
  • Insectivorous aerial feeders, hunters of insects on the wing
  • Build distinctive nests with hanging tails under protective foliage in tree forks
    • Lay three or more speckled white eggs, and raise two to five broods in a season.
  • Population fluctuates, but tends to recover quickly if it drops
  • Oldest bird known was three years

Ruru - Morepork

Ruruku - NZ Falcon

NZ Falcon - Karearea 02
  • Much smaller than the swamp harrier (or kāhu), common throughout New Zealand
  • Catches other birds on the wing and seldom eats carrion
  • Aggressive - displays great violence when defending its territory,
    • Reported to attack dogs as well as people
  • Nests in a scrape in grassy soil or humus in various locations
    • Under a rock on a steep slope, rock ledge, among epiphytic plants or under a log on the ground
      • Lays 2 or 3 eggs that are vulnerable to predators
  • Maori placed tūpāpaku (dead body) in a tree where Ruruku would eat the flesh cleaning the bones before they were intered


  • Rail - spend most of their time on the ground, many are flightless
  • 263 Known takahē - 2013
  • Deemed extinct twice - rediscovered by Geoffrey Orbell near Lake Te Anau in the Murchison Mountains, 1948
  • Orokonui have one breeding pair of takahē called Quammen and Paku
    • Chick Kotahi born October 2015
  • Second pair released 2016
  • Takahē pair for life - up to 12 years
  • Eats grass, shoots and insects, but predominantly tussock and other alpine grass species
    • Have been seen eating a putangitangi duckling
  • Poo is cylindrical, green and white ended
    • Up to 7 metres of finger size pellets per day

Takahē News A bird brought back from the dead

Tītipounamu - Rifleman

  • Rifleman, New Zealand's smallest bird


Tui - looking grumpy
  • Two voice boxes
  • Hopping stance - kapahaka


Poo detective agency

  • Identify poos
  • Poo cycle
  • Where does our poo go?
  • Poo bomb
  • Digestive system

Maiki Moa