5 Top Mainland Bird Sanctuaries to Visit in Aotearoa

Top five mainland bird sanctuaries image

Where can you take the kids to have a great day discovering some of our rare native birds? In Eugene’s Island Eugene’s family live on a bird sanctuary island, and we have many islands around Aotearoa New Zealand used in this way. However, by their nature (remote! uninhabited! home to endangered species!) these islands are not always easy or affordable places to visit. Luckily, we have some fabulous mainland sanctuaries near or in some of our major centres you can easily visit. Here our author, Elizabeth Kirkby-McLeod, tells us five of her favourite:

1. Auckland Zoo (Auckland): Of course, you can see lots of animals at the zoo but Te Wao Nui is a major area dedicated to creatures of Aotearoa New Zealand. New Zealand forest birds live in a superb aviary where a keeper can often be found feeding one of the chattering kākā. Kiwi have a night house you can creep your way through, while kea, takahē and whio are all in areas which mimic and teach you about their native habitat.

2. Sanctuary Mountain, Maungatautari (Waikato): located about 20 minutes outside of Cambridge this mainland ecological area has created an ‘inland island’ by being surrounded in one of the world’s longest pest-proof fences. They say the fence “excludes all mammalian pests (other than mice on the main mountain), pets and livestock from getting over, under or through it,” and has led to the eradication (inside the fence) of hedgehogs, cats, Norway rats, ship rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels, rabbits, hares, possums, deer, pigs and goats. You can book one of their guided tours (including a night experience) or go through self-guided at your own pace.

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3. Zealandia (Wellington): This is another example of an inland island where forest and the life within it is protected by a predator fence. It has been so successful that even as you drive towards the ecosanctuary you’ll notice an increase in native birds, including kākā, kākāriki and tīeke/saddleback. Only 10 minutes from the city, if you are local you can become a member and receive unlimited free entry along with other discounts.

4. Royal Albatross Centre (Dunedin): Located on the Otago Peninsula this is one example of human changes to the landscape encouraging birds to settle on the mainland. Until the 1900’s royal albatross only nested on Rēkohu Chatham Islands but it is believed the deforestation of the peninsula made it attractive to the birds, making the area the only mainland Royal Albatross breeding colony in the world. You can only visit their nesting area as part of a guided tour but it is well worth it – be patient and you might even see these giant birds in flight.

5. Punanga Manu o Te Anau/Te Anau Bird Sanctuary (Te Anau): just around the corner from the heart of Te Anau is one of the best places in the world to see takahē. You can go through the park for free (you’ll also see kākā, Antipodes Island parakeets, ruru, and ducks) but the guided tour is only $10 per person for adults (free for children) and allows you into the takahē enclosure. Takahē are magnificent, ancient looking birds; it feels like an encounter with dinosaurs.

More than 5!

Since this article was published we have had lots of great feedback about YOUR favourite sanctuaries on the mainland! We can never give conservation in Aotearoa New Zealand too much love, so if you are out and about also visit:
Rotokare Scenic Reserve, Taranaki - "a stunning 230ha forested hill-country catchment, with extensive wetlands and a 17.8ha natural lake."
Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Otago - "the flagship biodiversity project for the South Island where multiple species of plants and animals are protected from predators. A predator fence surrounds 307 hectares of Coastal Otago forest, pests have been removed, habitat enhanced with weed control and planting, and many rare and endangered species re-introduced."
Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, Miranda - "a community facility, open to the public seven days a week with access to three bird hides."
The Brook Waimārama Sanctuary, Nelson - "the largest fenced Sanctuary for endangered plants and creatures in the South Island."
Bushy Park Tarapuruhi, outside Whanganui - "predator-fenced sanctuary and history homestead."
Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park, Otorohanga - "a ‘non-profit’ charity dedicated to the conservation of New Zealand's native wildlife through education, research, display and breeding programs."
Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, Masterton: "942-hectare forest home to wild birds and an unfenced breeding sanctuary for native wildlife including kiwi, kākā and kākāriki for release across Aotearoa New Zealand."
Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauwae-a-Māui Gannet Reserve, Hawkes Bay: "reserve home to gannet colonies where you can see nesting gannets and get spectacular views over Hawke’s Bay."
Ngā Manu Nature Reserve, Waikanae: "4 hectare reserve
preserves one of the largest remnants of coastal lowland swamp forest on the Kāpiti Coast and provides a haven for native birds."

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