Three endangered birds you’ve probably never heard of

You’ll often hear about well-known and charismatic birds like the kiwi, kea and kakapo in the news, but New Zealand is a land of birds and with that comes many lesser-known species like the bittern, kaki and wrybill.

As Forest & Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition comes to an end, spare a thought (and your vote) for these ‘underbirds’ who most New Zealanders have probably never heard of.

The Bittern (Matuku)


In wetlands around New Zealand, these highly secretive birds use their mottled brown feathers to blend perfectly with the tall grasses and reeds.

Pair this with a tendency to freeze and stick their beak straight up in the air when they sense danger and it’s easy to understand why few New Zealanders know they exist.

The Kaki (Black Stilt)


Found wading through rivers in the Mackenzie Basin, the kaki is one of the most endangered birds in the world.

Jet black with red legs, kaki were once found throughout New Zealand. But in 1989, their numbers plummeted to an all-time low and there were just 23 birds left.

Today, they are restricted to braided rivers and wetlands in the Mackenzie Basin where the Department of Conservation runs an active breeding programme.

The Wrybill


These quirky looking creatures are the only bird in the world with a beak that bends to one side – and it always curves to the right.

No one is quite sure why their beaks are bent, but it’s thought to help them dig around under stones in search of food.

Wrybill breed along rivers in the South Island where they are masters of disguise. Their grey feathers blend perfectly with stony riverbeds and their eggs look just like rocks themselves.

read more:
article: Kimberly Collins
photos: Glenda Rees, Craig Mckenzie


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