How much do you know about our native birds?

Last Updated : 18 May 2021
Backyard birdsong did you know?

How much do you really know about our precious native birds? Our experts have put together some funky facts for you.


Backyard birdsong did you know? tui
  1. In September and October tūī stake out their breeding area by singing from the highest place possible. You’ll often hear them doing this in the early morning and late afternoon – so keep an ear out
  2. Tūī have a very complicated but beautiful song that also includes crazy coughs, clicks, grunts and wheezes. Adding to their repertoire, tūī often mimic other sounds such as car alarms, doorbells, and even humans
  3. Tūī play two important ecological roles. As pollinators of native plants (you’ll often see them with the orange pollen of flax or other natives on the tops of their heads) and seed dispersers (through their droppings)

Click below to listen to a dawn chorus with tūī in the foreground.


Backyard birdsong did you know? kereru
  1. Kererū have a soft ‘kuu’ call and a distinctive noisy swish of their wings as they fly
  2. Kererū love native plant fruit, sometimes eating fermented fruit resulting in them getting ‘drunk’ and falling from trees (this doesn’t usually result in injury though)
  3. Kererū aren’t too fussy with their nests, making them with a bunch of sticks. If you look from underneath you can often see their eggs, and then the chicks, through the holes

Click below to listen to a New Zealand pigeon/kererū/kūkū/kūkupa.


Backyard birdsong did you know? riroriro
  1. Riroriro provide the iconic sound of summer with their delicate yet complex trill. But as they are so small, they are often heard but not seen
  2. If you do see one, it’ll likely be fliting around greenery catching flying insects to eat. Look out for a tiny grey bird with a distinct red eye
  3. They also have a distinctive nest. Riroriro use a wide range of materials such as moss, leaves, bark, spider webs, wool, and feathers to create a hanging dome nest with a small opening on the side. The nest is lined with a soft layer of feathers and seeds – talk about luxury!

Click below to listen to the Grey warbler song.

Korimako | Bellbird

Backyard birdsong did you know? bellbird
  1. The song of the korimako or bellbird has been described as sounding ‘like small bells exquisitely tuned’. It sounds similar to the tūī but without all those crazy grunts and wheezes. Bellbirds are smaller too, and olive green with a cool purple sheen to their feathers. You’ll also hear its noisy flight, much like a tūī .
  2. Another honey eater, the korimako has a curved beak and a wee brush on the end of its tongue for dipping into our native flowers like kōwhai, to extract the yumminess within.
  3. Bellbirds are slowly making themselves at home on mainland Auckland, spilling over from the many pest-free islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Some have even been spotted in Devonport thanks to nearby Rangitoto Island and welcoming pest-free backyards.

Click below to listen to a Bellbird/korimako group.

Fantail | Pīwakawaka

How much do you know about our native birds?
  1. You know this tweetey icon – the one that flits around catching insects on the wing, using its little fanned tail to stop in mid-air and change direction in a second. In fact, it’s so super manoeuvrable that you might even see it hopping around upside down to pick lunch off the underside of leaves.
  2. Fantails have the coolest cosiest nests with a distinct wee tail hanging from the bottom. The tiny bird collects grass, moss, hair, feathers and even cobwebs to build it.
  3. Like most birds, they’re in breeding mode somewhere between August and February and will staunchly defend their patch. If you listen and look you might hear one calling from near its nest.

Click below to listen to the Fantail: North Island fantail song.


Save our precious backyard birdsong by creating your own pest-free backyard bird haven.

You can help by following these three simple steps:

  1. Pull weeds
  2. Plant natives
  3. Place traps

You can also find out more on the Tiaki Tāmaki Makaurau Conservation Auckland website.

Thank you to DOC for allowing us to share the bird song clips in this article.

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