When Captain James Cook sailed along New Zealand’s coastline in 1769 he wrote that the noise of birdsong was ‘deafening’. Indeed, in the millions of years before human arrival, with no other animal predators, all manner of exotic and endemic birds evolved and specialised to fill virtually every inch of New Zealand.
Obviously, centuries of human habitation had powerful and devastating impacts on New Zealand’s environment and abundant birdlife. Prior to Cook’s arrival many native birds were hunted to extinction, including the incredible flightless Moa and gigantic Haast’s eagle. Humans also introduced the first animal predators to New Zealand such as rats, cats, stoats, dogs and weasels. These predators wreaked further havoc on bird populations, particularly the flightless species.
Luckily, in more recent times there has been a conservation shift to value native birdlife as an ecological treasure unique to New Zealand. In support of this the Department of Conservation has established predator-free, fenced ‘ecological islands’. These sanctuaries throughout the country allow remaining and endangered species to live and breed in peace. Along with chance encounters in the wild, sanctuaries provide the perfect opportunity to view New Zealand’s rarer species, including our national icon the nocturnal, flightless kiwi, in their natural habitats.
With Ochre Recruitment medical placements available throughout New Zealand no matter where you are situated there will be dense native forests, scenic bush walks and bird sanctuaries close by to explore. You can be as enthralled and amazed as Captain Cook was by the birds that still fill these special places with their unique songs.
In the North Island (in North to South order) opportunities to see native species, including kiwi, kakapo, and takahē among others can be found at:
Waipoua Forest, Northland
Tawharanui Regional Park (open sanctuary)
Aroha Island Ecological Sanctuary, Kerikeri
Russell, Bay of Plenty (Night Walks or Ecological Walks)
Zealandia: Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellington
Kapiti Island Nature Adventures (Overnight Kiwi Spotting)
For those very keen on seeing kiwi, your best chance might be to see them during the day (via nocturnal houses) at:
Kiwi North, Whangarei
Auckland Zoo, Auckland
Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs, Rotorua
Kiwi House and Native Bird Park, Otorohanga
Nga Manu Nature Reserve, Waikanae
Pukaha, Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, Wairarapa
Wellington Zoo, Wellington
In the South Island (in North to South order) opportunities to see native bird species can be found at:
Orana Wildlife Park, Christchurch
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Christchurch
National Kiwi Centre, Hokitika
Westcoast Wildlife Centre, Franz Josef
Kiwi Birdlife Park, Queenstown
For those placed near the bottom of the South Island, or feeling up for an adventure, a visit to Stewart Island is a must do. Situated thirty kilometres south of Bluff across the Fouveax Strait by ferry, your time here will not be easily forgotten. With some of the most pristine habitat anywhere in New Zealand Stewart Island is a bird lover’s paradise (kiwi outnumber humans here by 50 to 1). For hard working doctors who need a real break the island is genuine getaway tucked away at the bottom of the world.
Why don’t you contact one of our lovely Kiwi Ochre Consultants now to talk about exciting opportunities for you that exist down under? We’d love to hear from you!