Across the Waimanu Lagoon at Waikanae on Sunday, my husband spotted a most elegant, white wading bird. At full zoom on the camera I was able to take a reasonable photograph. My husband thought it could be a White Heron or Kotuku.
We checked a large information board nearby and it mentioned Cattle Egrets and White egrets and we decided that either was possibly what we had seen. No mention was made of the Kotuku as far as I can remember.
We continued around the lagoon stopping to look up in total amazement at an old Macrocarpa tree fully of nesting Cormorants. (More on that in another blog post to come)
Sadly by the time we reached the shore where the lovely white bird had been it was gone. (By the way the grey, lumpy, downy objects on the muddy shore are cygnets sleeping on the warm, sheltered muddy shore)
Yesterday I checked a couple of websites and learnt that a Kotuku had been seen earlier in the day further north at Foxton. The distance between Foxton and Waikanae is not that great for a large bird to fly with a very steady wind at its back.
I made contact via this website and received a very prompt email response from staff at Te Papa, New Zealand’s National Museum. The expert confirmed, that from my photo, it did indeed look to be a Kotuku. Apparently sightings of one had been reported recently at the Lagoon.
I was thrilled. There have been many sightings of a Kotuku here in Porirua but my efforts to find it have been unsuccessful.
This article I have copied from the Kiwi Conservation Club webpage indicates that this is a rare bird still (Its conservation status is Nationally Critical) and one I hope will continue to grow in numbers.
The kōtuku is highly regarded in Māori mythology. It is believed that the kōtuku is from the spirit land Reinga.
They were thought to be so beautiful that to be compared to a kōtuku was one of the highest compliments you could pay someone.
Māori used their feathers to adorn their chief’s heads as a symbol of power.
When Europeans arrived in NZ, they also began to use the feathers for personal decoration – they used their feathers in women’s hats.
The kōtuku’s beauty was its downfall! Soon after the Europeans arrived, their population plummeted. By 1941 people could only count four nests!
Soon after, their breeding site became a wildlife sanctuary, and people patrolled it during nesting time. Now, the NZ population stands at around 100 – 120 birds.
The White Heron is found all over the world but New Zealand’s population of kotuku are related to the Australian White Heron.
A long time ago the birds came over from Australia and made New Zealand home. Sometimes birds from Australia still fly all the way to New Zealand for a visit.
When they are not nesting they spread out across New Zealand and can sometimes been seen visiting the Chatham Islands and our sub-Antarctic Islands.
Source: Kiwi Conservation Club article.
There are many meanings and symbols attributed to Kotuku. Google will take you to several websites for more fascinating information.
This website page also offers excellent detailed information and photographs.
To have seen one, to have stood and watched its beauty and elegance and to have a record of this sighting was particularly memorable…..I hope for more sightings and more photographs.