Birds of New Zealand
The first type of wildlife you may think of when New Zealand is mentioned is our national symbol, the kiwi. It’s not surprising that we have an endangered flightless bird as our national icon because New Zealand is a country dominated by birds, many of which are flightless. It’s an evolutionary result of having no predatory mammals. In fact, the only mammals we have are a couple of species of bat! So, if you’re out hiking in our national parks you won’t have to worry about seeing any big cats, bears, primates (apart from, maybe, a few locals), or snakes - because there aren’t any.
Having evolved in an environment that had no mammalian predators for 80 million years, our birds were vulnerable to the arrival of humans (and the rats and other animals they brought with them). Once humans arrived, over 40% of New Zealand’s birdlife became extinct. Birds like the giant flightless Moa, Haast’s Eagle ( the world’s largest eagle ever known), the New Zealand Pelican, the Laughing Owl and a host of other birds, vanished from our land. Many of the species that did survive are endangered or vulnerable to human impact, and are now part of extensive conservation efforts to increase numbers. The Department of Conservation is amongst the world’s leaders in population recovery for endangered birds, with the Chatham Islands Black Robin, which in 1980 was down to only five remaining birds of which there was only a single breeding pair, being an internationally recognised conservation success story (there are now about 200 of these little birds).
New Zealand’s birds are a curious bunch, including the kiwi, the kakapo (a critically endangered flightless parrot), the kea (a highly intelligent mountain parrot), royal albatrosses (we have the only mainland colony of royal albatrosses in the world), penguins (including some of the world’s rarest) and many others that you’ll see while hiking in New Zealand or exploring our coastlines.