Birds at Waiatarua Reserve

Waiatarua Reserve was originally the site of Lake Waiatarua which was formed following the eruption of Mt Wellington some 9000 years ago - lava flows and ash deposits created a natural dam allowing water to pond up in the valley. The lake was surrounded by trees and always a rich ecological area for birds. Sadly, the lake was drained by a tunnel out to Ōrākei creek in 1918 to allow urban development. Now Waiatarua is New Zealand's largest urban wetland and functions as a storm water treatment system that removes pollutants and sediments from urban stormwater runoff.

However, the wetland is also an important wildlife refuge - part of the wetland is scheduled as a Significant Ecological Area in the District Plan. The wetland habitat supports a range of native birds including pied and little shags, pied stilt, pukeko, grey faced heron and grey duck.

The bush area around the wetland has been enriched with native trees and plants targeting food and habitat for birds (See trees and plants section of website.) Surrounding bush habitat is home to many native species including riroriro/grey warbler, tūī, piwakawaka/fantail and ruru/ morepork with numbers increasing due to the native tree planting and pest control program.

Karuhiruhi / Pied shag

A large shag with a long grey bill. Usually a coastal bird but will come inland to use coastal lagoons and lakes. Auckland's biggest colony is in the Panmure Basin. Pied shags breed all year round but are most active in July-October and January-March.


Kawaupaka / Little shag

The smallest shag in New Zealand, with highly variable plumage, from all black to pied. All have short stubby bills and the tail is long compared to the little black shag. Their breeding season is usually between November and April.


Papango / New Zealand scaup

A small blackish diving duck with a rounded “rubber duckie” profile. The male is glossy black with maroon flanks, and has a yellow eye and a blue-grey bill. The female is blackish-brown, usually with a vertical white band at the base of the bill.


Weweia / New Zealand dabchick

A small dark grebe with a dumpy body, short bill and tiny, fluffy white tail. It has a blackish head and a prominent yellow eye. Dives frequently, sometimes after a leap. When alarmed the dabchick will swim quietly away on or under the water, or skitters across the water beating its wings.


Pukeko / purple swamp hen

A deep-blue coloured bird, with white feathers under its tail which are flirted at every step. Runs well and clambers about in scrub and trees. Dangles its legs when it flies. Large numbers of pukeko live in the reserve all year round, and breed between August and March.


Australian coot

An all black bird with a white bill and shield, and a red eye. Dives with a small jump to reach submerged aquatic plants. Established in New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, arriving from Australia. Breeds between August and March.

Mallard duck (European introduction)

The familiar duck of parks and farm ponds. Eats aquatic plants by dabbling on the water surface or grazing from the pond bottom. The mallard can inter-breed with the native grey duck so is a potential conservation problem.

Black swan (Australian introduction)

Large black swan with a crimson bill. Prominent white wing tips show when the swan flies. Feeds mainly on vegetation by dabbling at the water surface, upending to reach bottom plants or grazing on pasture. This species probably arrived in New Zealand of its own accord in the 1860s.

Parera / Grey duck

Both males and females look like a female mallard duck but they are darker and with a conspicuously striped pale head, grey bill and greenish-brown legs and feet. Has a call like a mallard. Has interbred extensively with the mallard to produce paler birds with less distinct facial stripes.


Putangitangi / Paradise shelduck

A large goose-like duck. The male and female are quite different in appearance - the male has a black head with a greenish gloss and a dark grey/black body. The female has a white head and a bright orange-chestnut body. Usually seen in pairs or flocks.


Tete / Grey teal

or Delicate light grey-brown duck with pale grey cheeks and chin. The bill is blue-grey and it has a red eye. Grey teal feed by filtering on the water surface or dredging bill through soft mud. Inhabits lowland lakes, lagoons and estuaries. Breeding season runs from June to February.


Kuruwhengi / Australasian shoveller

A duck with a heavy spatulate bill. A breeding male has a blue-grey head with a white crescent in front of a golden eye. His flanks are bright chestnut with a white patch at the base of his tail. Females have streaked and spotted brown and buff bodies. Shovellers feed on seeds and small aquatic animals that are sieved through the bill.


Tarapunga / Red billed gull

A grey and white gull mainly of the coast. It has a short bright red bill, red legs and feet and a white eye. Common in coastal waters, beaches and estuaries and occasionally inland on wet paddocks, playing fields and lakes. Breeds between September and February.


Karoro / Black-backed gull

The only large gull in New Zealand, with a white head, neck, underparts, rump and tail, yellow eye and a yellow bill with a red spot at the end. Breeds in New Zealand on the coast, offshore on outlying islands and inland. It ranges widely although rarely ventures far out to sea.


Poaka / Pied stilt

A distinctive black and white wader with very long pinkish legs, a long fine black bill and red eyes. Breeds between July and January on riverbeds, lake margins and damp pasture.


Riroriro / Grey Warbler

Although usually found in forests, this small and very vocal bird can be seen and heard in Waiatarua. The grey warbler is a small bird, about 11cm long, usually seen in pairs, and is grey with a lighter coloured breast. The voice is a melodious song which you will often hear interrupted by it’s alarm note of a repeated twitter. It feeds on insects, larvae and spiders exclusively, and breeds 3 times a year with a complex domed nest containing 3-4 eggs.


Piwakawaka / Fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa placabilis)

The fantail is a common forest and scrub bird, which uses it’s extraordinary manoeuvrability to catch insects on the wing. The fantail has an orange breast and white markings above the eye and below it’s beak, as well as some white feathers on it’s tail. It communicates and responds to single high pitched cheet sounds, and the male has a short song of a few syllables. They nest from August to February, with 4 or 5 broods of 2-3 eggs per year. The eggs are incubated by both sexes for 15 days in total.


Tūī (Prosthmadera novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae)

Distinctive and character filled, tuis are identified easily by their shiny plumage and white throat feathers. They are territorial birds and can often be seen singing or fighting for territory. Their songs vary considerably depending on the district, and can be melodious or guttural squawks. They have a diet of nectar, insects, and fruits, and so can often be seen around flowering trees. They lay their eggs between September and January, with a single brood of 2 to 3 eggs. The female incubates the eggs for 14 days, but both parents feed the chicks.


Kererū / Wood pigeon (Hemiphaga novaseelandiae novaseelandiae)

These widespread pigeons are endemic to New Zealand, with large size demonstrated by their very audible whistling wingbeat. Their plumage is greyish green with purple in the light, with a white breast and small head compared to body size. They have a subdued cooing voice. Their diet primarily consists of fruits and flowers, with seeds and foliage of both native and exotic plants. These birds are important to the New Zealand bush for the role they play in distribution of seeds from many trees. They breed from late august to march, with a single white egg incubated by both sexes for about 30 days.


Kahu / Harrier hawk (Circus approzimans)

Widely distributed throughout new zealand, this is the most common bird of prey in New Zealand. The Harrier is a large brown feathered bird with a fairly wide wingspan. It can be seen gliding leisurely around the Reserve in search of it’s prey, which varies from birds to rabbits to insects and even occasionally fishes and tadpoles. Harriers usually breed from October to November, with large sticks grasses and rushes, in raupo, pampas grass, or occasionally in the crowns of tree ferns. Nests house 3 or 4 eggs incubated for 29-32 days by the female, with the chicks first flying at 6 weeks of age.


Kotare / Kingfisher (Halcyon sancta vagans )

These beautiful birds are common the Reseve where they feed of the abundant gambusia in the wetland.. Their most distinctive feature is their brilliant blue wings, back and head, contrasted to their white underside. They can often be seen in high branches in search of prey, and their call is that of a repeated “kek kek kek”. The kingfisher feeds on insects, larvae, earthworms, spiders, tadpoles, fish, crabs, and small lizards. They breed by boring tunnels into clay banks or rotting tree trunks. 4-5 eggs are laid between November and January, fledging at 26 days, incubated and fed by both sexes.


Tauhou / Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis lateralis )

Small and very common throughout New Zealand, these birds were self introduced to the country in 1856 from Australia. They have grey and yellowish green plumage with a very distinctive white ring around the eye. They are often seen flitting around in scrub, and eat a variety of insects, grubs, small fruits and nectar. The silvereye’s voice is a sharp “twee” and the male sings a warbled trill. The silvereye’s nests contain 2-3 small eggs incubated by both sexes for 12 days, made up of spiderweb, fine grasses, hairs, and moss.


Korimako / Bellbird (Anthornis melanura melanura)

Let us know if you see one of these. There have been possible sightings but unconfirmed as yet These birds are common in native forest and are usually first identified by their melodious song. They are medium sized almost pear shaped birds, with black wings and plumage of a yellowish green similar to that of the silvereye. Their song differs during the day, and the birds sing out a unique dawn song in the early hours of the morning. Bellbirds nest between September and January, raising 2 broods of 3-4 eggs.



These beautiful intelligent parrots have been heard above the Reserve but not yet seen. Let us know if you meet one in the reserve.


Ruru / Morepork 

These speedy and attractive owls can be frequently heard at night in the Reserve, hopefully reducing the pests as well.