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Bird watchers are eager to discover New Zealand, as the birding tours help the guests thoroughly explore the spectacular and peaceful Antipodean islands. A birding tour across New Zealand offers guests the most thorough coverage of the country and makes them witness every attainable endemic species of bird, including all six endemic bird families of the island nation.
New Zealand is popularly known as the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud and is the globe’s remotest major landmass. Detached from the rest of the world, New Zealand is a true treasure trove full of natural wonders. The country acts as a living natural history museum that reminds guests of a time of ancient conifers, tree ferns, and prehistoric flightless birds, insects, and reptiles. New Zealand is one of the earth’s most scenically breathtaking places, with contrasting extremes consisting of towering alpine peaks and parched valleys, climactic fiords, and mounting southern beech forests, volcanoes, and glaciers, bubbling mud pools, and surf-swept headlands.
Birdwatchers visit New Zealand for its impressive mixture of endemic bird families, endemic bird species, and the world’s finest collection of pelagic seabirds. With over 50 endemic bird species and about six endemic bird families, New Zealand is a bird watcher’s paradise. The endemic families present here include the Kiwis, the New Zealand wrens, the New Zealand parrots, the stitchbird, the New Zealand creepers, and the New Zealand wattlebirds.
Amongst other exciting birds, guests will spot the world’s rarest penguins, namely the Fiordland Crested Penguin and the Yellow-eyed Penguin; you will also spot the localized New Zealand Albatross or the Northern Royal Albatross; the rarest cormorant of the world, the New Zealand King Shag; the elusive Blue Duck; the endangered Black Stilt; the strange Wrybill; that unique parrot, the Kea; and the unfamiliar North Island Kokako, a wattlebird having such low flight power that it virtually glides between trees.
This tour includes a comprehensive bird-watching tour as well as New Zealand whale-watching!
After a comfortable flight, you will arrive at Auckland Airport, where our guide will greet you. After checking in at your hotel, you will start your tour by visiting the gorgeous Muriwai Beach, which lies towards the west of the city. The beach is one of the only three breeding colonies of Australasian gannets in New Zealand. You will get excellent views of these magnificent birds from a close distance without disrupting the colony.
After enjoying the beach, you will proceed north to a small estuary to find the unique Fairy Tern and the graceful New Zealand Dotterel. Some of the species that you will see will include the Little Pied Cormorants, Paradise Shelduck, Swamp Harrier, Variable Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, New Zealand Albatross, etc.
Later, you will proceed towards the enchanting Bay of Islands and stay overnight at Kerikeri.
In the evening, you will go looking for the North Island Brown Kiwi. You will walk in silence and listen to these unusual birds as they gasp and snuffle through the open margins of the forest. You will surely hear Morepork during our Kiwi walk.
Explore the Bay of Islands
Before proceeding towards the far north, you will explore some stunning native forests that are located close to the Bay of Islands. You will encounter the magnificent kauri trees and various New Zealand endemics, like the New Zealand pigeon, the New Zealand fantail, Tui, etc. You will also visit an estuary, where you will find the unique brown teal. Later, you will travel to Snells Beach, which lies on the shores of the Hauraki Gulf. You will stay there for three nights. Upon your arrival at Snells Beach, you will take a short excursion to a beach closeby for viewing the New Zealand dotterel.
Visit the Tiritiri Matangi Island
On the third day, you will catch a water taxi and reach Tiritiri Matangi Island. You will visit the island sanctuaries of Northland and spot the endangered native birdlife. You will be introduced to predators on the mainland, like rats, stoats, ferrets, etc.
You will keep a sharp eye out for the attractive Stitchbird and North Island Saddleback. You will also look out for the shy North Island Kokako and hear their beautiful calls ring through the woodlands of the island.
You can expect to see Takahe creeping through the tall grass or wandering in the open near the headquarters of the reserve. You will get to see Spotless Crakes, Red-crowned Parakeets, New Zealand Albatross, and listen to the calls of Tuis and Bellbirds. Apart from that, you will also spot whiteheads and other species like brown quail, silvereye, and North Island robin.
The area also has a high density of passerine birds. The majority of the passerine birds residing in this area are very tolerant of humans and provide excellent opportunities for taking photographs.
Explore the Hauraki Gulf
On the morning of the fourth day, you will ride on your charter boat and travel to Hauraki Gulf to spot a fabulous collection of seabirds, including flesh-footed, sooty, little shearwaters, black and cook’s petrels, pomarine skua, etc. Your highlight will be the mythical New Zealand Storm-Petrel bird. You may also encounter short-beaked common dolphins, and common bottlenose dolphins, or even do New Zealand whale watching.
Visit Port Miranda on the Firth of Thames
You will visit Port Miranda on the Firth of Thames. Being a large bay located towards the southeast of Auckland, you will get to spot Bar-tailed Godwits, Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Eastern Curlews, etc.
You will also spot New Zealand breeding species, like the South Island Pied Oystercatcher, Pied Stilt, New Zealand Dotterel, etc.
White-fronted terns, black-billed gulls, Caspian terns, royal spoonbills, etc. will also be spotted here. Later, you will visit a wetland area near Hamilton to see the rare Australasian Bittern. From there, you will drive southward to Turangi and spend your night beside Lake Taupo.
Take a ferry across to Kapiti Island
The area around Lake Taupo is among the most scenic and best areas in New Zealand for spotting the unique blue duck. The other birds that you will encounter in Lake Taupo include the New Zealand Dabchick, Grey Teal, New Zealand Albatross, Kaka, Tomtit, etc. You will get another opportunity to spot the North Island brown kiwi.
You will then head south to Paraparaumu and ride a ferry to Kapiti Island, where you will stay overnight. Kapiti is a great place to see long-tailed cuckoos, and you will have more encounters with Takahe and North Island Kokako. Later in the evening, you will go out searching for the Little Spotted Kiwi. You will also meet a few little penguins making their way up to their burrows.
Drive to Wellington
After coming back to the mainland, you will drive south to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. You will stop along the way in the Plimmerton area to spot the shore plovers flying over from Maud Island.
You will then ride a ferry across to Picton on the South Island to stay there for two nights. The crossing will take three and a half hours, during which you will see various seabirds.
Boat Trip in Queen Charlotte Sound
During your stay at Picton, you will take two different boat trips in Queen Charlotte Sound, which acts as an important refuge for New Zealand endemic birds.
While you cruise in the Queen Charlotte Sound, you will capture the quintessential essence of the Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park while riding among land and sea on forested peninsulas, scalloped by countless bays, and stretching out into waters dotted with islands.
You will focus on the White Rocks, where 800 attractive species survive and are found in Cook Strait and Marlborough Sounds. After approaching the rocky pinnacles, you will explore the coastline.
You will then stop at Motuara Island, where you will see South Island saddlebacks, tame bellbirds, and South Island robins. You might get the opportunity to spot little penguins.
You will also visit Blumine Island, searching for Malherbe’s parakeet.
Birding at Queen Charlotte Sound
You will enjoy final birding at Queen Charlotte Sound, and then you will head southward along a magnificent stretch of coastline to Kaikoura. You will stay at Kaikoura for two nights.
Travel Offshore for Birding
Kaikoura holds a remarkable assemblage of marine birds, and you will take a boat ride to enjoy pelagic birding. You will spot the huge New Zealand Albatross, Northern Royal Albatross, White-capped Albatrosses, Hutton’s Shearwater, Northern Giant Petrel, etc.
You will also spot the dusky dolphins, and if you are lucky, you will spot the great sperm whale as well as the endangered Hector’s dolphin.
In Kaikoura town, you may see Pacific Reef Egrets and Common Redpolls.
Explore Bealey in the Southern Alps
Early in the morning, you will head for Bealey in the Southern Alps. Along the way, you will stop and look for the Great Crested Grebe, Cape Barren Goose, and Black-fronted Dotterel. You will also enjoy some exciting scenery while ascending to Porter’s Pass from the Canterbury Plains.
The Bealey houses the Yellow-crowned Parakeets, as well as the New Zealand Fantail and Tomtit. You will have a chance to witness a New Zealand falcon guarding the river valley.
Later on, you will cross Arthur’s Pass, where you will enjoy excellent views of the Southern Alps under the gaze of Mount Rolleston. You may also see your first Keas here. Eventually, you will reach the Tasman Sea coast that lies to the south of Greymouth. After reaching the Tasman Sea coast, you will head north towards Punakaiki for your stay.
Later, you will witness the remarkable rock formations at the aptly named Pancake Rocks while admiring the exciting scenery of the White-fronted Terns squabbling over their territories. You may also spot your first Weka here.
After having dinner, you will make an excursion to search for the impressive Great Spotted Kiwi. Being the largest of New Zealand’s Kiwis and also the shyest, you will need good luck to spot one. You may also encounter Morepork, New Zealand’s only surviving native owl.
Head to Franz Josef
On the twelfth day, you will head southward to Franz Josef, where you will stay overnight amidst some wonderful scenery. Franz Josef has ancient forests, snow-encrusted peaks, glistening glaciers, silver lakes, and impetuous rivers that rush down to the sea, making the South Westland full of stunning natural beauty. You will arrive in time to visit the majestic Franz Josef Glacier, and later in the evening, you will search for the restricted-range Okarito Kiwi.
Drive southwards towards Haast
You will continue your drive southward towards Haast. You will make a few scenic stops en route. Later, as you head inland to Omarama to stay overnight, you stop at Haast Pass.
As you go to the Omarama and Twizel areas, you will continue your search for a rare inhabitant of the shingle spreads. The population of the Black Stilt is under 80, making it the rarest wader of all. Being a resident of Mackenzie Country, you can spot it as well as Wrybill and Double-banded Plover breeding in this area.
You might also find the Black-fronted Tern and New Zealand Pipit in the various areas of this region. Apart from that, you will also spot the New Zealand falcon in this area. If the weather is good, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Mount Cook and the surrounding snow-capped Southern Alps.
Continue Southwards to Te Anau
After doing some final birding in the Mackenzie Country, you will continue your journey southwards towards Te Anau in Fiordland, and stay there for two nights. You will pass through Cromwell and Queenstown.
Explore the Fiordland National Park
You will spend the whole day exploring Fiordland National Park. You will visit the rivers, lakes, fiords, and subantarctic beech forests in search of their varied birdlife.
Some of the interesting species in the area include the New Zealand Falcon, Rifleman, Brown Creeper (or Pipipi), Long-tailed Cuckoo, etc.
As you go towards Milford Sound, you will reach the spectacular Upper Hollyford Valley, known for its superb alpine meadows, boulder fields, and snow-capped peaks. You will also get the opportunity to spot the blue duck along the Hollyford River.
Further up, you will see the Rock Wren from a small glacial basin at the Hollyford River's headwaters. You will be surrounded by sheer rock walls and alpine scenery while searching for the wren. You will also get the opportunity to search for the large alpine parrot and the kea.
Later, you will have the opportunity to admire the spectacular beauty of Milford Sound by taking a boat trip, where you will keep a lookout for Fiordland Crested Penguins.
Drive to Invercargill
You will drive to Invercargill in search of the secretive Fernbird. From Invercargill, you will cross the Foveaux Strait by ferry to reach Stewart Island, where you will stay for two nights at Halfmoon Bay.
In the evening, if the weather permits, you will take a boat trip to a remote headland, where you will arrive after dark at a sandy beach to see the Southern Brown Kiwis.
Explore Stewart Island
You will explore Stewart Island and its offshore islets to get some incredible views of albatrosses, shearwaters, and petrels. You will spot white-capped albatrosses, Salvin’s and Southern Royal albatrosses, brown skua, and Buller’s albatrosses.
In addition, you may also spot the Mottled Petrel, Broad-billed Prion, or Antarctic Tern. You will also get to see yellow-eyed penguins and Fiordland crested penguins.
Encounter the Endangered Species
You will get to spot both the Yellowhead and South Island Saddleback, as well as Weka, on the eighteenth day. Later, you will return to Invercargill and drive towards the north-east to Dunedin, where you will stay overnight. In the late afternoon, you will visit a secluded beach on the Otago Peninsula to witness the large yellow-eyed penguin nests.
Fly Back Home
On the last morning, you will visit Taiaroa Head to see the mainland colony of the Northern Royal Albatross. Later, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight back home.