Posts categorized as Birds

A new bird for New Zealand – Cox’s sandpiper

  • New Zealand’s first Cox’s sandpiper, Lake Ellesmere, November 2016. Photograph: Michael Ashbee, NZ Birds Online
  • Pectoral sandpiper. Photograph: Steve Attwood, NZ Birds Online
  • Curlew sandpiper. Photograph: Neil Fitzgerald, NZ Birds Online
  • Sharp-tailed sandpiper. Photograph: Tony Whitehead, NZ Birds Online

The latest addition to the New Zealand bird list is a legendary shorebird so rare that there are times when it is likely that none exist anywhere in the world. Bird expert Colin Miskelly introduces the Cox’s sandpiper. Sandpipers are small wading birds that separate people with a serious interest in bird identification from casual… Read more »

Cuckoos and their toxic prey – ‘urticated’ inside and out

  • Shining cuckoo. Photograph by Nathan Hill, New Zealand Birds Online
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  • Red admiral butterfly caterpillar (pale morph). Photograph by Norm Twigge
  • Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa gonerilla). Photograph by Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Cuckoos can stomach toxic caterpillars, but it appears they are also impervious to being stung externally, as bird expert Colin Miskelly discovers. A previous blog on this topic referred to shining cuckoos seeking out and eating prey that are toxic to other birds – including caterpillars with urticating hairs. ‘Urticating’ refers to hollow spines that… Read more »

The global hunt for the original wandering albatross

"Chocolate albatross" in Vienna

Vertebrate Curator Alan Tennyson explores the history of the name of the wandering albatross and the hunt for the original specimens. The wandering albatross is one of the world’s greatest ocean wanderers, with individuals circumnavigating the Southern Ocean and travelling 120,000 km in a year. These albatrosses have been among the most high-profile of seabirds ever since… Read more »

A new bird for New Zealand – laughing gull

  • New Zealand’s first laughing gull, Opotiki wharf, January 2017. Image: Thomas Musson, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Non-breeding Franklin’s gull, Papakura, October 2009. Image: Peter Frost, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Ray McNamara feeding gulls in his backyard, Opotiki, January 2017. The laughing gull is perched on a fence post at top left. Image: Bob Rigter
  • Laughing gull in breeding plumage, Mexico, March 2015. Image: Nigel Voaden, New Zealand Birds Online

Christmas arrived two days early for Waikato bird-watchers Annette Taylor and David Riddell when they spotted New Zealand’s first laughing gull. They were heading to Gisborne, and had stopped for a picnic at Te Ahiaua Reserve, 7 km west of Opotiki in the eastern Bay of Plenty. Te Ahiaua Reserve is on the shore of… Read more »

11,000 images on New Zealand Birds Online – and the Brooks family’s Big Year

  • The 11,000th image – a plumed whistling duck at Anderson Park, Taradale, December 2016. Image: Scott Brooks, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Jay Brooks searching for a marsh sandpiper, Miranda, October 2016. Image: Scott Brooks
  • Laughing kookaburra, Campbells Beach, Tawharanui, August 2016. Image: Scott Brooks, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Ollie, Zef and Jay Brooks match their wingspans with that of an albatross, Taiaroa Head Albatross Centre, September 2016. Image: Scott Brooks

The 11,000th image loaded on New Zealand Birds Online was of a rare vagrant Australian duck, and it comes with an inspirational back-story of family-based discovery and adventure. The image of a plumed whistling duck near Napier was one of more than 70 images that Northland-based photographer Scott Brooks loaded on the website following an… Read more »

DNA reveals relationships of the extinct Scarlett’s shearwater

Scarlett's Shearwater, Puffinus spelaeus, collected 18 Oct 1991, Te Ana Titi Cave, Fox River (station 131, cave metre grid -82N -98E), New Zealand. Field Collection 1986. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (S.028002)

Research scientist Lara Shepherd and vertebrate curator Alan Tennyson look at the relationships of extinct seabird, the Scarlett’s shearwater (Puffinus speleus) in a newly published paper. New Zealand is the seabird capital of the world with more endemic seabird species than anywhere else. But before humans arrived with their exotic predators we used to have even more species…. Read more »

Sunshine, fishing – and changes in Coromandel birdlife over 45 years

  • Papa Aroha beach. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Brown teal, Papa Aroha, December 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Part of the Motukawao island group. Gannets nest on Motukaramarama (Bush) Island on the left. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Spotted shags, Firth of Thames. Image: Jenny Atkins, NZ Birds Online

From welcome swallows to Australian magpies, bird expert Colin Miskelly looks at the variety of birdlife who’ve come to call Coromandel home over the past half-century. Spending the summer at the beach is part of the great New Zealand holiday tradition. For many families, attachment to a particular location results in them returning to the… Read more »

Whale tales from Dusky Sound: Nice smile, pity about the breath!

  • Time to move on into the sunset. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa.
  • Warts and all. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl, Pe Papa
  • Water spout in Dusky Sound. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa.
  • Boat inspection by one of the humpback whales. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa.

A Te Papa research team travelled to Dusky Sound: photographer Jean-Claude recalls a surprise encounter with bad-breathed whales. 15 November 2016. We had made good progress since leaving Doubtful Sound on the Southern Winds, the DOC boat that supports conservation programmes around southern New Zealand. We were now sailing past the tip of the Five… Read more »

The petrels of Dusky Sound

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  • Broad-billed prion chick, Seal Islands, Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Mottled petrel in spotlight beam, Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl
  • Mottled petrel, Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Have you ever wondered which New Zealand bird was the first to be given a published scientific name? The unlikely answer is the broad-billed prion, named as ‘Procellaria vittata’ by a 22-year-old Georg Forster in 1777. The second species was the little penguin (as ‘Aptenodytes minor’) named by Georg’s father, Reinhold Forster, four years later…. Read more »

Dusky Sound – rich in history and wildlife

  • Mottled petrel, Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa
  • Flax weevil (Anagotus fairburni), Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa
  • Adult tawaki / Fiordland crested penguin, Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Kakapo on Anchor Island, November 2016. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa

A team of Te Papa scientists recently visited Dusky Sound as the first stage in an investigation of changes in biodiversity since Cook’s visit in 1773. Cook named the area ‘Dusky Bay’ when he sailed past on his first voyage in March 1770, and explored the sound and its wildlife more thoroughly during a 6-week… Read more »