NZ Postcard No 15


lan Cochrane


Flyins lt has been some time since I have done a postcard on "Flying " , so here goes !l


"Flying" but not as you know it ! This time it is flying as in birds. I must admit that I ain a bit of a "twitchef' - not fanatically so, but I do like to know a bit about the birds I see in the garden and in the forests, in particular N.Z. native birds. However when talking about these birds, to use the term "flying " may be a misnomer as many of them are flightless !  Why ? :-


Historv. 100 Million years ago the big southern land mass called Gondwanaland began to split apart . A large chunk drifted off and became Australia, smaller bits, New Zealand.  Amazingly these land masses developed their unique flora and fauna. Surprisingly Australia ended up with many and varied animals whereas N.Z. developed no animals ( apart from a few varieties of lizards - but no snakes | ). We had our of share of birds, but as

there were no predators to worry about, our birds lost the ability to fly and preferred to walk about the forest floor, for example the :-

kiwi moa kea takahe fantail Back Home

TAKAHE.     (  Pronounced  Tar - car - hay)   Another interesting  flightless  bird is  the Takahe.     For many years it was thouqht  that it was extinct  until a sighting  was made in 1948 in the Spencer  Ranges in  Fiordland.     Photos were taken and  the sightings

\Neli documented  .           Further trips to the area showed  a small colony of these birds did exist ! Some breeding  pairs were taken back and a controlled  breeding  programme  established. This programme  has produced  many healthy Takahe which  have been returned to the wild.

Numbers  are increasing  but it  is  a slow process  !!



KEA.    ( Pronounced     Key - ah )  The worlds ony mountain parrot, is found  near the snow line  in  the mountains  of the South  Island.    A very mischievous   bird that has a liking for rubber seals and wiper blades of vehicles  parked at the ski fields.    Once blamed for attacking  sheep, the government  offered  a bounty for each dead Kea brought  in. Numbers  soon dropped  and  the  government reintroduced  full protection  of the Kea in 1986.  Numbers are now increasing.      Scientific  tests have been carried out proving  it to be a very intelligent  bird,   and can  work out problems,   particularly  where food is concerned.

FANTAIL.   (  Maori name Piwakawaka  :        Pronounced Pee  - wok - ah - wok - ah.  )  This is a delightful   little bird that has adapted very well with  living  with humans. Quite often when walking  through  forest  or gardens  ,    these  birds wili  fiit around you chasing small  insects that we have disturbed while  walking.  It is  not unusual to have a fantail fly into a house,  look around for small flying insects,  and fly out again !

There are two species of fantail in New Zealand  ;   the North Island Fantail and the South Island  Fantail. The unusual thing with the South Island variety,  is that 25% hatch out a pure biack coiour, where as the remainder are pied (  see photo ) .     All North Island  Fantails  are pied.  Australia also has two species of Fantail, but they are different to the New Zealand ones !

These 5 birds I   have selected  represent only a few of the hundreds of birds that now call New Zealand  - home  !      Many of them have been introduced accidently such as being blown across the Tasman  Sea from Australia (  e.g Plovers and Wax-Eyes), others being brought in as "Game Birds  " ( e.g. Canada  Geese and various  ducks  ).  The Indian Myna ,

I   believe was brought  in as "Cage  Birds "  but some  escaped  and established themselves   in the upper North Island.



                                                                                                                                                                                        Ian Cochrane 

KIVVI.   Probably the best known of all N.Z.  birds, the Kiwi has many unique features,  has no tail but it does have a long beak to dig out food from the leaf litter  on the forest  floor  but the unusual feature   of this beak is that the nostrils  are at the tip where  it  can sniff out it's  lunch.  It's feathers are so soft it is  more like  fur. For it's  size,  the Kiwi,  lays the biggest  egg of all birds - it's huge !  !    There are 5 species   of Kiwi   - all "rare"   or "endanqered",    but with intensive   breeding

programmes  now in place,  it is hoped that numbers  will  increase  in  the near future


iviOA. (  Pronounced  Mow - ah )  The next NZ bird I   will talk about is  the now extinct Moa.  There were 6 species  of Moa when the Maori arrived  in NZ.  The largest stood 12  feet tall  - the  smallest  about 3 feet.

Aqain these birds were flightless  and knew no predators,   until the arrival of the Maori. These  birds quickly succumbed to the Maoris quest for food,   until they were comp!etly wiped out !        When the Europeans  arrived    they were "no moa" (more)!

Some years back there vvere  reports that

Moa had been seen in the wild and woolly  area of Fiordland  on the south• west corner of the South Island, but these sightings  were not substantiated. Many more trips have been made to the area over the years but no Moa have been seen!!