Birdwatching Tour in New Zealand
The tour covers the North, South and Stewart Islands, seeing around 150 species of birds. Roughly 60-65 endemics. Great scenery, excellent birding, including pelagic trips to see seabirds.
Set dates between late October to early March each year.
Pick-up at accommodation in Auckland, heading northwards for Kerikeri. During the day stops for common forest birds, plus Australasian gannet, common shorebirds, and then after dinner looking for Northern brown kiwi.
Kerikeri to Warkworth (4 hours driving). This morning visiting a small estuary, potential for more shorebirds, and targeting fairy tern. New Zealand plover (NZ dotterel), variable oystercatcher, black-winged stilt (pied stilt) and Arctic migrants such as bar-tailed godwit and red knot all possible. Afternoon forest birds including tui, bellbird, grey gerygone, North Island saddleback, as well as brown teal and Australasian little grebe. Night in Warkworth, where we will stay for two nights.
Today we will spend the day out on the water in the beautiful Hauraki Gulf, leaving from Sandspit. Main focus of the day will be to locate the seabirds which are most easily seen in the northern part of New Zealand, such as the recently rediscovered New Zealand storm-petrel (which Sav and Brent rediscovered in January 2003), as well as black and Cook’s petrel, Buller’s, flesh-footed, fluttering and little shearwater, and white-faced storm-petrel. The night will be spent at the same accommodation in Warkworth.
Today we will head to one of New Zealand’s most incredible birding locations, Tiritiri Matangi Island. We will focus on seeing all of the endemics on the island, with North Island saddleback, kokako, stitchbird, takahe, brown teal, and red-crowned parakeet being targets. After dinner we will look for little spotted kiwi.
Leave the island mid-morning by water taxi, heading south to one of New Zealand’s premier shorebird sites. Likely species are wrybill, bar-tailed godwit, red knot, red-necked stint, ruddy turnstone, New Zealand plover, banded dotterel (double-banded plover), variable and South Island pied oystercatcher, black-winged stilt, black-billed gull, and Caspian tern. Other less common migrant shorebirds are possible.
Miranda to Whitianga (3 hours driving). Early morning around Miranda, then the afternoon will be spent out on a pelagic, targeting Pycroft's petrel. We will expect to see other common northern breeding seabirds such as common diving-petrel, Buller’s, flesh-footed, and little shearwaters, fairy prions, grey-faced, Cook’s and black petrel, and white-faced storm-petrel. Back in port in the late evening, overnight in Whitianga.
Whitianga to Turangi (5 hours driving). We will head south to a forested area to look for New Zealand kaka (North Island subsp.), yellow-crowned parakeet, long-tailed koel (cuckoo), shining bronze-cuckoo, rifleman, and we will also encounter other more common forest species. New Zealand falcon is a possibility also, as is New Zealand pipit. Overnight in Turangi.
Turangi to Napier (4 hours driving). The morning will be spent looking for blue duck and then the afternoon visiting a forested area between Taupo and Napier. A chance to again see some of the common forest species as well as another chance at long-tailed koel (cuckoo), shining bronze-cuckoo, whitehead, tomtit, and rifleman. New Zealand falcon and New Zealand fernbird are also in the area and we can spend time trying to locate both of these species. Accommodation for the night in Napier or Havelock North.
Local birding for shorebirds, waterfowl and bittern, before heading across to the Manawatu region and the Manawatu Estuary for more views of wrybill and other shorebirds. Overnight in Foxton.
Foxton to Picton (3 hours driving). Mainly a day heading south along the coast, to depart Wellington for Picton on the Cook Strait Ferry just after midday. The Cook Strait can be good for seabirds, so we will keep an eye out. Overnight in Picton.
The morning will be spent on the Marlborough Sounds, our main target being New Zealand king shag and orange-fronted parakeet. We will also be looking for two dolphin species, the endangered endemic Hector’s dolphin, and the more common dusky dolphin, as well as little penguin, fluttering shearwater, spotted shag, and Australasian gannet. New Zealand fur seals are also present. The afternoon will be spent driving south towards Kaikoura with stops along the way. We will spend the night in the once sleepy, but now bustling town of Kaikoura, where we will have two nights in the same accommodation.
Kaikoura, Albatross Encounter pelagic in the morning, afternoon at leisure. The morning pelagic is around 2.5 hours long, but is an excellent opportunity to look for at least 3 species of albatross, normally as close as 5-6 feet away, including northern and southern royal, New Zealand wandering, black-browed, Campbell, white-capped, and Salvin’s albatross. Cape petrel (pigeon), Westland and white-chinned petrels, northern giant-petrel, and the endemic Hutton’s shearwater are likely, and perhaps even grey-faced petrel, southern giant-petrel, sooty and short-tailed shearwater. Afternoon at your leisure, with time for a range of options such as doing another afternoon pelagic, whale watching (sperm whales are present year round), swimming with dolphins, or just relaxing and enjoying the scenery. Any activities during the afternoon will be at your own expense. We will stay at the same accommodation as the night before in Kaikoura.
Today we will head deep into the Southern Alps through to Arthur’s Pass, making several stops along the way, and passing through some exceptionally scenic alpine areas. Our target bird for the day will be kea, and we will look for shorebirds and terns along the way. Forest birds are likely near Arthur’s Pass, such as New Zealand brown creeper, yellow-fronted parakeets, and South Island robin, before checking in to our accommodation. After dinner we head out to listen for great spotted kiwi, which are occasionally heard nearby.
This morning we will head west, up and over the Pass and on to the stunning West Coast. A relaxed day of birding, looking for forest species and making it to Franz Josef by mid-afternoon. After dinner we will head out to look for Okarito brown kiwi, the rarest of the three brown kiwi, with an estimated 400 birds remaining.
Depending on how late we were out the previous night, we will head south towards the township of Haast, stopping at one or two places on the way. From Haast we head inland through some spectacular mountain scenery. Sites along the way are good for New Zealand kaka (South Island subsp.), yellow-crowned parakeet, rifleman, South Island tomtit, New Zealand brown creeper, and long-tailed koel (cuckoo). We will stay as long as we can in this area, making the most of our time in this amazing forest. Night in Wanaka.
A big drive early this morning towards Milford Sound. The key target today is rock wren, which can be very difficult. A visit to Milford Sound relies on seeing rock wren early on, and other birds are likely including kea, yellow-crowned parakeet, rifleman, South Island robin, and tomtit. We will spend the night at accommodation in Te Anau.
Early morning drive through to Bluff to board the late morning ferry across the Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island. Depending on the sea and weather conditions the one-hour ferry crossing can be excellent for seabirds, with albatross (Southern royal, white-capped, and Salvin’s), giant-petrel, mottled petrel, Cape petrel (pigeon), common diving-petrel, fairy prion, sooty shearwater, Foveaux shag, and brown skua all possible. We will check into our accommodation, have lunch, and then spend the afternoon on Ulva Island where we hope to see New Zealand kaka (South Island subsp.), yellowhead, South Island saddleback, and some of the more common forest species such as brown creeper, red- and yellow-crowned parakeet, and rifleman. After dinner we head out in search of Southern brown kiwi.
The whole day will be spent at sea. Target birds for the day are Fiordland crested penguin, yellow-eyed penguin, southern royal albatross, white-capped, Buller’s (Jan/Feb) and Salvin’s albatross, both northern and southern giant-petrel, mottled and Cook’s petrel, broad-billed and fairy prion, and common diving-petrel. Other more common species we will almost certainly see are Cape petrel (pigeon), sooty shearwater, spotted and Foveaux shags, brown skua, white-fronted tern, and red-billed gull. We have a back-up night looking for Southern brown kiwi if weather was not good the night before. Our accommodation will be the same as last night.
We will leave Stewart Island on the early morning ferry, heading northwards towards Oamaru. We will stop at a beach to look for yellow-eyed penguins coming ashore in the late afternoon, and search for Otago shag. Our accommodation for the night is in Oamaru.
We again head inland, this time to the Mackenzie basin. The focus of the day is the worlds’ rarest shorebird, the black stilt. Along the way we will be keeping eyes peeled for New Zealand falcon, which is regularly found in this area, as well as stops for the introduced chukor, and waterbirds, including great crested grebe, common coot, and the ever difficult Baillon’s crake (marsh crake). On a clear day we should have views of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook (Aorangi). We will spend the night at accommodation in Twizel.
Heading northwards towards Christchurch where we will end the tour at the International Airport or accommodation in Christchurch around 1pm.
What is included?
- All transport within New Zealand from the pick-up point to the drop-off point (unless at times or from places other than specified), travel through the country, ferries, and boat charters
- All accommodation during the tour, from Day 1 through to Day 20. Accommodation on Day 0 in Auckland if you choose to arrive a day early (recommended), and Day 21 in Christchurch at the end of the tour can be organised at extra cost.
- Meals as stated in the daily itinerary (B, L, D). Breakfast generally consists of a continental style breakfast with cereal, fruit and yoghurt and tea/coffee. Full cooked breakfast is not generally possible at most locations. Lunch will generally consist of a packed lunch style meal eaten in the field, with sandwich/filled roll, fruit, and a drink. Dinner will consist of several options for main, with the choice of either an appetiser or dessert.
- All Guide services and additional tour fees eg. kiwi tours, Department of Conservation concessions, Albatross Encounter pelagic, etc.
- A copy of Birds of New Zealand: A Photographic Guide (one copy per couple/single) and a Tour booklet which includes a checklist, copy of the itinerary, and pages for taking notes on locations, etc.
What is not included?
- Flights to/from New Zealand
- Travel Insurance which we highly recommend.
- Transport to and from the specified meeting and drop-off points.
- Additional drinks/snacks throughout the day, and alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages at dinner.
- Personal items eg. souvenirs, internet, etc.
We only operate in New Zealand, choosing to run tours on our home turf where we know things best. That doesn’t mean we don’t travel and bird overseas though! Our trip lists speak for themselves – during the last two summers our 21-day itineraries have consistently seen over 150 species with both Brent and Sav seeing 168 species on separate tours in late 2011, and Brent seeing 172 species (now the record) with a great group in Nov 2015! No other New Zealand operator even comes close to species lists like this! We are licensed by the Department of Conservation concessionaires, permitted to operate on New Zealand’s conservation estate. This means some of your fees goes towards ensuring the conservation of the birds you will see. We also hold concessions for many of the Auckland Regional Council Regional Parks. Where needed, we use an operator with a Marine Mammal Viewing permit.