Flights of fancy bring birders to Dunedin, New Zealand

Published on : Wednesday, July 29, 2015

unnamed (3)Nestled between bush and hills and girdled by food-rich offshore currents, Dunedin has achieved the reputation as the wildlife capital of New Zealand. In addition to its flagship penguin and albatross residents, the city and environs offer the visiting birder a diverse mix of avifauna – whether endemic, introduced, or migrant.

Two hotspots close to the city are Otago Peninsula, with its thriving menagerie of seabird species, and Orokonui Ecosanctuary, an avian oasis where resident bush birds rub wingtips with rare and endangered newcomers in a visitor-friendly environment.

 

With its unique ‘megafauna’, Otago Peninsula has long been top of any birder’s bucket list. Heading the tally is the northern royal albatross colony at Taiaroa Head, the only mainland albatross colony in the world and wonderfully accessible to visitors.

 

This is truly an albatross city, where birds pair up, breed, produce young and leave on their grand circumnavigations of the Southern Ocean, only to return and repeat the whole cycle. The colony resembles a busy airport, and there is always something to see as these giants of the sky lumber into the air or lower their landing gear for touchdown. When a nor’easterly is blowing, a watch on the sea cliffs below the visitor centre is sure to be rewarded with the sight of a great white shape sweeping past as it glides along the approach path to the nesting grounds on 3-metre fixed wings.

 

Spotted shags nest on these same cliffs, well within camera range, and the mounded nests of colourful Stewart Island shags can be seen from the albatross observation area. To get to the viewing site, visitors walk through a chaotic breeding colony of red-billed gulls – a declining if not yet endangered seabird.

Penguins at Pilot’s Beach

At the base of Taiaroa Head, at Pilots Beach, is a burgeoning colony of little blue penguins; in the evenings, guided tours allow visitors to see hundreds of these charismatic seabirds swarming ashore under special lights. But, there is so much more to see in this bird-rich place.

 
Each spring, millions of sooty shearwaters – muttonbirds or titi, as Māori call them – pass off the coast in endless waves. A great place to observe them – as well as passing shags, Australasian gannets and other seabirds – is the Mole, directly across the harbour entrance at Aramoana.

 

Otago Peninsula’s other avian superstar is the yellow-eyed penguin, which nests on bushy headlands on the ocean-facing side of the peninsula and is best seen in the late afternoon when the adult birds begin to come ashore after a day out fishing at sea.

 

Source:- Tourism New Zealand

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