06 February, 2012

Eurasian Skylark

Scientific Name: Alauda arvensis

Population Estimate: 250M - 1B

Range / Habitat: Found in open country, from coast to subalpine throughout Europe, Asia and northern Africa. Introduced to western North America, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.

Field Notes: Medium-sized passerine, spotted brown on upper parts and breast, generally buff underneath. Yellow bill and white eyeing. Adult with small crest when alert. In flight, often with M-shaped, broad wings and white outer tail feathers and white trailing edge. Male territorial flight display, singing a sustained and vigorous torrent of varied trills and runs. New Zealand Pipit lacks crest, has dark bill, and is frequently flicking tail up and down. Song Thrush with boldly spotted chest, dark bill, no white markings to face.

Personal Notes: Seen and heard several times before finally photographed outside Auckland.

New Zealand Plover

Scientific Name: Charadrius obscurus

Population Estimate: 2K, Endangered status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand were found on beaches, estuaries and in river mouths of northern North Island. Also a population which breeds on mountain tops of Stewart Island and then moves to estuaries of Stewart Island, Southland and Farewell Spit.

Field Notes: Squat plover with robust bill. Back is brown-grey with whitish feather edges. In breeding plumage underparts can be pale orange to rich rufous. Non-breeding adults (as above) are distinctly pale, all white underparts and only grey shoulder patches, no complete breast band. Non-breeding Double-banded Plover lacks white cheeks and still has remnant of both breast bands.

Personal Notes: Seen at Miranda Shorebird Center, near Auckland. In New Zealand known as New Zealand Dotterel. Maori name Tuturiwhatu.


Scientific Name: Anarhynchus frontalis

Population Estimate: 4.5K - 5K, Vulnerable status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand, where it breeds in the braided river beds of Canterbury and Otago. Then migrates to estuaries of of the North Island, especially Firth of Thames, Manukau and Kaipara.

Field Notes: Small, stocky, pale very wader with short neck and black bill with tip curved to the right. Breeding adults with black neck band. Underparts white, legs grey.

Personal Notes: Seen at Miranda Shorebird Center, outside Auckland.

01 February, 2012

Southern Royal Albatross

Scientific Name: Diomedea epomophora

Population Estimate: 29K, Vulnerable status

Range / Habitat: Pelagic species which breeds on Campbell and Auckland Islands of New Zealand. Widespread in the southern Pacific Ocean when not breeding.

Field Notes: Huge seabird with long narrow wings. All white head and body, flesh-coloured bill with black edge to upper mandible. Wings generally black on top with some white extending from the body onto the leading edge. Wings white underneath with black wingtips. Distinguished from mollymawks by size and all white body. Northern Royal Albatross has no extension of white from body onto upper wings. Some plumages of Wandering Albatross may be similar but lack black line to mandible.

Personal Notes: Maora name Toroa. Seen in Foveaux Strait off Stewart Island. Considered one species with Northern Royal Albatross until recently.

Salvin's Albatross

Scientific Name: Thalassarche salvini

Population Estimate: 62K, Vulnerable status

Range / Habitat: Pelagic bird that breeds in the Snares Islands and Bounty Island of New Zealand as well as the Crozet Islands in the Indian Ocean. When not breeding, widespread throughout the southern Pacific Ocean.

Field Notes: Small albatross with light grey head and neck. Bill grey with faint yellow outline. Upperwings and back dark. Underwings white with clear-cut, narrow black borders and small black triangular notch at base of the leading edge. Buller's Albatross similar but with black bill outlined in bright yellow. Shy Albatross with white cap and head.

Personal Notes: Known as Salvin's Mollymawk in New Zealand. Some sources consider this bird a subspecies of Shy Albatross. Seen in the Foveaux Strait off of Stewart Island.

Black-fronted Tern

Scientific Name: Chlidonias albostriatus

Population Estimate: 2.5K - 10K, Endangered status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand where found on inland gravel riverbeds of the South Island, primarily east of the alpine range.

Field Notes: Small hooded tern with markedly blue-grey wings. Bill and legs orange. In breeding plumage, black cap present which extends down to bill. Antarctic Tern similar but does not overlap in range. White-fronted Tern rarely seen inland and with black bill.

Personal Notes: A great end to our South Island holiday. Seen outside of Methven on the Rakaia River. Maori name Tarapiroe.

New Zealand Fernbird

Scientific Name: Megalurus punctatus

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand where found throughout the mainland and Steward Island in freshwater and tidal wetlands, especially with reed beds. Can also be found in drier sparse scrub and bracken fern.

Field Notes: Medium-sized passerine, more often heard than seen. Warm brown above and paler below, though underparts are heavily spotted and streaked. White eyebrow stripe. Distinctive long, frayed tail, which is not present yet in the juvenile above. Flight weak with drooping tail. Call a sharp metallic double-note.

Personal Notes: A wonderful find at Bush Point Fernbirds near Invercargill, where we saw two juveniles and heard mom feeding them. We subsequently saw and heard several of these birds in the Catlins. Maori name Matata.

Buller's Albatross

Scientific Name: Thalassarche bulleri

Population Estimate: 64K

Range / Habitat: Pelagic bird in the southern Pacific Ocean. Breeds on several small islands around New Zealand.

Field Notes: Small albatross with light grey head and neck. Bill black with bright yellow outline. Upperwings and back dark. Underwings white with clear-cut broad dark leading edge and narrower trailing edge. Very similar to Grey-headed Albatross. Salvin's Albatross also similar but bill light grey with subtle yellow outline.

Personal Notes: Seen in the Foveaux Strait off Stewart Island. Known as Buller's Mollymawk in New Zealand.

Cape Petrel

Scientific Name: Daption capense

Population Estimate: 2M

Range / Habitat: Pelagic bird of the southern Pacific Ocean. Breeds on islands of Antarctica as well as Auckland Islands and Chatham Islands of New Zealand.

Field Notes: Medium-sized seabird with distinctive black and white checkered back as able. Head solid dark. Underparts white with black leading edge to wings.

Personal Notes: Seen in the Foveaux Strait off Stewart Island. Known as Cape Pigeon in New Zealand.

Black Stilt

Scientific Name: Himantopus novaezelandiae

Population Estimate: 200 individuals, Critically Endangered

Range / Habitat: Restricted to two braided river basins near Twizel, in the South Island of New Zealand. Eggs taken from birds in the wild, raised in a protected environment, then released back to the wild.

Field Notes: All black, medium-sized wader with long pink-red legs, fine bill, red eye. Juvenile with variable white to the head, neck and chest. White-headed Stilt could be confused for a juvenile, but former has no black at all on belly.

Personal Notes: We had visited the DOC breeding site and saw these birds in captivity but then were given a tip from the owner of Heartland Lodge and were lucky enough to find them in the wild. Quite a treat!

Brown Skua

Scientific Name: Stercorarius antarcticus

Population Estimate: 26K - 28K

Range / Habitat: Seabird of the circumpolar subantarctic. In New Zealand breeds on Chatham Islands, near Stewart Island, Fiordland coast plus a variety of other small islands.

Field Notes: Large, stocky gull-shaped bird. All brown except for conspicuous white flashes on wings. South Polar Skua with lighter body and yellow feathering on hindneck. Juvenile Kelp Gull more mottled in appearance without white wing flashes.

Personal Notes: Seen in the Foveaux Strait near Stewart Island. This excellent flier could take food from the air when thrown. Maori name Hakoakoa.