The Land of Birds
New Zealand is frequently described as the land of birds. Early pioneers often reported on the deafening bird songs within the forests and it is a tragedy that today many of our forests are missing the dawn chorus that was once so prevalent in New Zealand.
Before the Polynesians arrived, the forest was devoid of any mammalian predators, the only land mammals in New Zealand were a couple of species of bats. The lack of any predators allowed the bird life flourish and evolve unusual characteristics. With no need to waste energy flying away from predators, several species lost the ability to fly and consequently grew larger.
One of the largest birds to walk the planet was the moa, one species of this flightless bird grew upto 2 metres, only the elephant bird of Madagascar was larger.
The moa was hunted to extinction by early Maori and it is thought that the last one died about 300 - 500 years ago.
The largest bird of prey to exist, the Haast's eagle is estimated to have had a wingspan around 3 metres and a weight of 13 kg. They used to swoop down on moa's and could bring down a 250 kg moa.
Early Maori were terrified by Haast's eagle and it was quite possible that it also swooped down and killed humans.
As it's staple died consisted of the moa, when the moa died out it also became extinct. It is believed that the last one died about 300 years ago.
The largest parrot in the world, the kakapo is also flightless.
Thankfully this bird isn't extinct, but only just! There are less that 100 of these birds left, all located on offshore predator free islands.
The most famous of the flightless birds is the kiwi. New Zealand's national emblem the kiwi is also nocturnal.
Like all flightless birds the kiwi is easy prey for introduced mammals like cats and stoats. The best place to go kiwi spotting is Stewart Island.
This cheeky alpine parrot, yes a parrot that lives in the snow, is New Zealands most infamous bird. People have a habbit of feeding these friendly birds resulting in them being full of energy with nothing to do. What does an intelligent and playful bird do in this situation? Well batton down the hatches as the kea will rip apart anything it can get it's sharp beak and claws onto. If you come back to your camp site to find your tent ripped to pieces and your rubber seals on your car taken out then you know who to blame!