Tag Archives: White Heron

Waimanu Lagoon again

Yesterday we made the trip back to the Waimanu Lagoons in Waikanae. It was relatively quiet on the Lagoon with swans, cygnets, ducks and other waterfowl feeding repeatedly by either uptailing or dipping their necks into the water. Pickings below the water must have been abundant on a full tide.
There were plenty of Cormorants flying back and forth between the water and their nest sites where chicks were needing to be fed.
Cormorants or Shags, both black and pied varieties like this area to nest in. They are very keen on Macrocarpa trees and they build rough looking nests from large twigs and small branches. The nests look untidy from the ground but they must be robust having survived relentless northwesterly gales for some weeks now.
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Our hopes were high for another Kotuku sighting and to our surprise as we neared the end of the circular walk we spotted it sharing the Macrocarpa tree with several cormorants. It had flown in while we were elsewhere on the path around the Lagoon.

Kotuku or White Heron, Waimanu Lagoon, Waikanae

Kotuku or White Heron, Waimanu Lagoon, Waikanae


I was able to take a lot of photos of this rare and very beautiful bird as it perched in the tree and either observed its surroundings or preened itself.
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For some reason, best known to this mob of red billed gulls, the cry went out and the gulls wheeled into the air and proceeded to dive bomb the Kotuku.
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This photo shows the Kotuku responding to this unprovoked attack.
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Fortunately the bullies gave up the game and the Kotuku settled back to preen.
Sometimes you just have to scratch that itch! Look at that long leg and very long toes/claws.
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Several other passers-by, in this busy area, also stopped to take photos and to talk about this rare bird. We all agreed we had been treated to a very special experience.

My top photo in 2014

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.
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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.

Rare, exceptional, beautiful

The work camera was grabbed this morning when a very rare Kotuku, White Heron, was seen in a car park in Porirua.

This website: gives you a lot more detail about this very special visitor.

Perhaps it was en route to Okarito, the only place in New Zealand where these birds breed. The breeding season begins in August.

Maori (New Zealand’s indigenous people) have this saying:

He Kotuku rerenga tahi.
A Kotuku’s flight is seen but once.

And this paragraph off the above website describes beautifully how exceptional this lovely, lovely bird is to us.

“In Maori oratory, the most telling compliment is to liken someone to Kotuku. It symbolizes everything rare and beautiful. It was said that Kotuku is an inhabitant of the nether world, the spirit land of Reinga, and that an old funeral chant ends with these words to the departed: “Ko to kotuku to tapui, e Tama e – Kotuku is now thy sole companion, O my son!”
So seldom does Kotuku appear in any locality that “rare as the Kotuku” has passed into a proverb among Maori.”

And this sunset completed a lovely day, which had offered a significant event.