Wild Birds

Watching wild birds forage for food, nest and raise young in our gardens or sing happily from a backyard tree brings joy to many people.


As humans, we have changed birds’ natural environment significantly, by clearing large areas of vegetation, to create roads and construct buildings, and introducing new animals to areas they were never once found.

This has placed birds under pressure and competition to find food, shelter, safety and suitable habitats to breed in. Therefore, it is only fair that we help them survive in the environments we’ve created, this is especially important when they hurt or injure themselves. 

Baby birds

It's common in spring and summer to see young birds (fledglings) sitting on the ground or hopping about without any sign of their parents.

This is perfectly normal.  As long as the fledgling is in a safe area and appears healthy, there's no need to be worried. These fledglings are doing exactly what they are meant to do at their age. 

The chicks of most common garden birds leave their nest once they are fully feathered, but before they are able to fly. These fledglings spend a day or two, sometimes longer, on the ground while their flight feathers  finish growing. The only exceptions are swallows,  swifts, fairy-martins and tree-martins, which are able to fly well as soon as they leave the nest, and should never be found on the ground.

However tempting it may be, interfering with a young bird like this will do more harm than good. Fledglings are very unlikely to be abandoned by their parents. Just because you cannot see their mum or  dad does not mean that they are not there. The parents are probably just away collecting food - or are hidden close by keeping a watchful eye on their baby.  They may even have been frightened away from  their baby by your presence and are waiting to come back once you leave. 

Orphaned baby birds

If you are concerned that the parents of a fledgling are missing, wait and watch for the parents: observe the baby bird continuously for 60-90 minutes from a distance – ideally through a window inside your  home. If the parents are about and can see you, they will not come back until you are gone. 

Watch carefully; the parents fly in and out very quickly. 

If the parents don't return, call your local SPCA or bird rescue centre. 

Ask an adult to rescue a bird if:
  • It has blood on it.
  • It has an open wound.
  • It has a broken bone.
  • It cannot stand on its own.
  • One of its legs is hanging uselessly.
  • It cannot fly (but it is not a nestling or fledgling being coached by nearby parents).
  • Its beak is damaged.
  • It has oil on its feathers.
  • It is caught in a trap, fishing line, or string.
  • It has been caught by a cat even if it seems fine.
  • It is unconscious.
  • It is having difficulty breathing.
  • It is a fledgling on a busy path or road, or other unsafe area
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The yellowhead or mōhua is a small, insect eating bird which lives only in the forests of New Zealand’s South Island and Stewart Island.

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Albatrosses are the world’s largest seabirds, spending at least 85% of their lives at sea.  New Zealand’s albatrosses include two species of royal albatross.  The Māori word for them is ‘toroa’.

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Tūī are unique (endemic) to New Zealand.  They belong to the honeyeater family which means they feed mainly on the nectar from flowers of native plants.

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The tūī can often be heard singing their beautiful melodies long before you can actually spot them!

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The word ‘poe’ is a Tahitian word meaning ‘a pearl’ - It has been said that our tūī was named the poe bird by traders because its white tuft of feathers resembled pearls worn by the Tahitian people.

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Pūkeko is the New Zealand name for the purple swamphen. There are many subspecies but those found in New Zealand are thought to have landed here around a thousand years ago from Australia.

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The morepork or ‘ruru’ is New Zealand’s only surviving native owl.

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If you hear the call of a morepork (ruru), it actually sounds as if it is calling out the word ‘morepork’.

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In Māori tradition the morepork (ruru) was seen as a watchful guardian and their call was thought to be a good sign.

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A morepork can turn their head 270 degrees!

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The kiwi is a unique bird – it can not fly, has loose hair-like feathers, strong legs and no tail.

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The kiwi is the national icon of New Zealand.

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New Zealanders have been called ‘Kiwis’ since the nickname was given to us by Australian soldiers in World War One.

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There are five species of Kiwi in New Zealand and all of them are endangered.

 

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House sparrows were introduced to New Zealand first in the mid 1860’s.  They are found everywhere in New Zealand except for high mountains and bush.

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Birds have feathers, wings, lay eggs and are warm blooded.

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Scientists believe that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs.

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Birds have hollow bones which help them fly.

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A common backyard bird in New Zealand is the blackbird.  Blackbirds are not native to New Zealand – they came here from Europe, north-west Africa and the Middle East.

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Blackbirds were introduced throughout the three main islands of New Zealand between 1867 and 1880.

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Some common backyard birds in NZ are the chaffinch, goldfinch, greenfinch, thrush, starling and mynah bird.

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The Kererū or wood pigeon is endemic (unique) to New Zealand. They are one of the largest pigeons in the world.

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The fantail or pīwakawaka is a friendly, energetic bird native to New Zealand.

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Pīwakawaka or the fantail is one of New Zealand’s native forest birds that features widely in Māori mythology and legends.