Kākā / Bush Parrot

Nestor meridionalis
Conservation Status: Recovering

The kākā is a large brown parrot with splendid underwings of bright red and yellow. The word kākā is te reo Māori and means parrot, or “to screech”.

There are probably fewer than 10,000 individuals left, mainly due to habitat loss, however native planting corridors have allowed it to travel from Masterton to Wellington in a single day, helping with the genetic diversity of the species. 


Males are significantly larger in size and appear to have more hooked beaks compared to the females.

Kākā were released back in the Pūkaha reserve after being locally extinct for over 50 years. They can be seen flying overhead throughout the day but are most raucous in the early morning and late evening. Hanging around in small family groups, many join in the 3.00pm kākā feed for a quick treat.

There are currently two breeding pairs being held in aviaries at Pūkaha with their offspring released in sanctuaries and reserves around the North Island.


Cyanoramphus spp.
Red Crowned Kākāriki
Conservation status: Relict
Yellow Crowned Kākāriki
Conservation status: Not Threatened
Orange-Fronted Parakeet
Conservation status: Nationally Critical

These little green parakeets are collectively known by their te reo Māori name, “kākāriki” which means “green” (and further breaks down to ‘kākā’ meaning ‘parrot’ and ‘riki’ meaning ‘small’).

Once widespread, habitat loss and predation has restricted these birds to predator-free sanctuaries. 


The orange-fronted parakeet, the smallest of the three, is the rarest and is currently at risk of extinction.

At Pūkaha, we have active captive breeding programmes for the red and yellow crowned kākāriki. The aviaries hold breeding pairs which successfully reproduce each year meaning their offspring can be released across the country.

Kererū / New Zealand Pigeon

Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae
Conservation Status: Not threatened

Famous for getting drunk off berries and crashing through the forest (and the garden!) with the unmistakable ‘whoosh whoosh’ of the wings.

The native NZ pigeon is fairly widespread and numbers are increasing in predator-controlled areas.


At Pūkaha, kererū are seen in high numbers just before breeding season when the kowhai and tree lucerne is in flower. Almost seemingly tame, you can get quite close to a kererū before it appears to have noticed you.

When landing, no branch is considered too small and often you see or hear a kererū crashing through a plant before getting a foothold.


Apteryx mantelli
Conservation status: Not Threatened

An unusual bird, the kiwi can only be found in New Zealand. This unique species was once found all across the country but today is under threat due to predation and habitat loss.

Its powerful legs and claws are its only line of defence while at night its piercing cries alert predators to their presence. Kiwi are nocturnal, flightless and with feathers that feel more like fur than plumage.


Pūkaha is home to a small population of North Island brown kiwi. From here, our team monitor the breeding pairs and collect the eggs as part of Operation Nest Egg.

Our nocturnal house acts as a nursery for these young kiwi before they are big enough to be released into the wild.

Kōkako / Blue Wattled Crow

Callaeas wilsoni
Conservation Status: Recovering

More likely to be seen than heard, the kokako has an extraordinarily haunting song.  Like church organs playing alongside a melodic flute, its these kōkako duets that can be heard dominating the dawn chorus. 


Originally named “blue wattled crow” by settlers, it is actually a member of the wattlebirds, and is related to the tieke/saddleback and the extinct huia.

Its blue wattles and dark mask are key characteristics of this bird, while the South Island kōkako, (possibly extinct) has bright orange wattles.

2007 saw the first reintroduction of kōkako to Pūkaha, with the released pairs breeding in their first season. They have thrived ever since, with the previous kōkako count seeing over 40 pairs and 20 individuals.


Korimako / Bellbird

Anthornis melanura
Conservation Status: Not threatened

The bellbird has a very pretty song which is often carried through the forest in the early hours of dawn. Their song can easily be mistaken for the tui’s, however it lacks the ‘clunk’ sounds, making it considerably more melodic.

The males are a distinctive dark green, while the females are more of an olive/ brown colour.

Bellbird numbers at Pūkaha have soared in recent years. Visitors can see bellbirds darting through the foliage and skimming overhead around our ngahere

Pāteke / Brown Teal

Anas chlorotis
Conservation Status: Recovering

A small dark brown duck with white underwings, the sexes can be differentiated during breeding season when the males’ head feathers turn green.

Also under threat from predators, this duck was once widespread across NZ. Captive breeding has ensured the survival of this species through releases and translocations.


There are two breeding pāteke pairs at Pūkaha, who each have clutches of 5-8 eggs up to 3 times a year.

This offspring is then released in various locations across the upper North Island. The protective mother stays with her young for 6 – 8 weeks; by this point, the ducklings are the same size as their parents.

Piwakawaka / Fantail

Rhipidura fuliginosa
Conservation Status: Not threatened

The fanciest of the natives, the fantail is easily recognised by its distinctive tail feathers. Very chatty and friendly, these birds often approach you in the hope of catching insects which have been recently disturbed.

Because of their inquisitive nature, they are vulnerable to predation and are easy targets for mammals such as cats.


Head upwards on the Lookout Track at Pūkaha, and you will soon be greeted by friendly fantail.

With their ‘cheep cheep’ noise, they are often heard before seen, but will follow you quite a way down the path.

Pūkaha is also home to black fantail, a rare colour variation that is often seen in our Redwood area.

Tītipounamu / Rifleman

Acanthisitta chloris
Conservation Status: Not threatened

The smallest of the NZ birds, this tiny green wren flits among the trees looking for little insects to feed on.

Often seen in family groups, the male has a dark green coat, similar to that of the NZ army rifleman uniform (hence the name) whereas the female is much more toned down in colour.


Around Pūkaha, you may come across little blue nest boxes.  These have been specially designed for the rifleman and are used – often by the same pair – year after year.

Each pair can produce two to three chicks, which all stick together in the same area. They make a quiet “peeping” sound, similar to that of a rubber duck!

Tui / Parson Bird

Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae
Conservation Status: Not threatened

The chattiest of the New Zealand natives, the tui may appear black from a distance but each feather has iridescent hues of green, blue and purple. What first catches the eye is its white throat tuft, prompting its English name, “Parson bird”, as it looks like a collar.

Highly territorial, these birds can be seen defending their patch from kākā, hawks and even falcons.


Tui are widespread at Pūkaha and have nested very well the past few years.

The specially-planted nectar area ensures a year-round food supply which, during spring, is filled with juvenile tui learning to call.

South Island Takahē

Porphyrio hochstetteri
Conservation Status: Nationally vulnerable

Believed extinct for over 50 years, the takahē is a large endemic bird in the rail family. With just over 400 manu (birds) left nationally, they are one of our most threatened species.

While it looks similar to a pūkeko, it is actually slightly larger and with shorter legs. The have mottled green feathers on their backs which act as camouflage in the high tussock grasses of the South Island regions they call home.


Pūkaha is home to two takahē, T and Fomi.  Despite being introduced to each other mid 2019, they have become a tightly bonded pair and can often be seen grooming and feeding each other. Tuatahi measns ‘First Born’ in Te Reo. 

They are retired from the breeding programme, although they do still produce one or two eggs each season. Hatching has so far been unsuccessful.

Whio / Blue Duck

Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos
Conservation Status: Nationally vulnerable

A white-water rafting river duck, the whio is one of only a few torrent ducks in the world. The whio, so named due to their high pitched “whio” sound, are restricted to only a few certain areas in New Zealand and are classed as thriving in places where there is intense predator control.

Pūkaha is home to two breeding whio pairs as part of a national breed-for-release programme. Their distinctive blue/grey colouring makes them easily stand out from other species of duck, while specially adapted “lips” enable them to easily forage on the river rocks.