Birds of Auckland

In 1980 the New Zealand Herald published a book called “Birds of Auckland” by Tim Lovegrove. It’s a great little book with great photos and detailed illustrations. I was only 5 years old in 1980 and lived in Whangārei so I found it interesting to read how these places have changed. However there are better datasets for a more robust analysis of population trends. I made some notes while I read it:

P7. “Tahuna Torea nature reserve at Glendowie is easily accessible from the city. Here many shorebirds gather to roost at high tide or feed on the nearby mud-flats at low water.” This site is also mentioned on page 57.

We know from other data that this roost has been compromised and species like godwit and knots no longer using the roost.

P15. “Giant petrels or nellies are common winter visitors to the Hauraki Gulf. These large, dark birds venture well into the Waitemata Harbour, often following ships. One can often see them from Tamaki Drive or Oarkie Wharf, if ships coming and going from the port are watched carefully with binoculars. Nellies follow in the wake of ships ready to scavenge upon any galley scraps tossed overboard.”

It’s good we no longer see giant petrel following ships, I expect this is because humans are now less likely to throw their waste overboard.

P33. [Pied shag] “Breeding colonies are located in the suburbs at the Panmure and Orakei Basins, and on the edges of Lake Pupuke.”

The colony at Panmure is probably 1/30th the size it was. I believe the Lake Pupuke colony has moved to the Chelsea Sugar factory but I am not sure.

P37. [Little shag] “There is a well-established colony in Hobson Bay where some 30 pairs of little shags breed.”

This colony is gone, tho I note a similar size colony has started at Point England in late 2019.

P39. “A number of spotted shags may be seen at high-tide roost on the rocks beside the Kawakawa Bay to Kailua road at Tarata Point. Another colony may be seen at Ihumoana Cliff at Bethells.”

We no longer see spotted shags at these locations or near the mainland.

P39. [White heron] “A regular visitor to the northern harbours of Manukau, Kaipara and Firth of Thames during winter.”

Observations of kotuku are now quite rare with less than 50 ever being recorded on

P45. [Royal spoonbill] “… an occasional winter visitor to harbours and estuaries in the Auckland district”

Observations of Spoonbills are way up with more than 1,200 records on

P45. [Canada goose] “… appears only as a straggler in the Auckland district.”

Observations of Canada geese are way up with more than 1,200 records on

P52. [Weka] “… are also established around Middlemore Golf Course following a release of 18 birds at Kings College in 1971”

They didn’t survive but its interesting to hear about these early efforts.

P60. [Variable oystercatcher] “These days beach buggies pose the greatest threat to their breeding grounds. Only the odd variable is ever seen among the vast flocks of South Island pied oystercatchers in the Manukau, Kaipara and Firth of Thames.”

Beach buggies are no longer a significant threat. Observations of VOC are definitely up and the species is recovering.

P60. “Small flocks of up to 100 golden plover may occur in the South Manukau and Firth of Thames”.

Golden plover numbers have declined sharply.

P63. [Banded dotterel] Here over 100 birds are regularly found during the winter on the short cropped pasture of the freezing works holding paddocks on Hamlins Hill.

No waders are ever seen on Hamlin’s Hill anymore which has just been made a Regional Park.

P63. [New Zealand dotterel]. “It is a breeding bird near Auckland in the South Manukau and Firth of Thames.”

The strongest breeding grounds are now north east of Auckland from Shakespear Regional Park to Mangawhai.

P77. “Native pigeons still occur in reasonable numbers in the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges. Odd birds appear in the suburbs every year, especially in parks and gardens with fruiting trees”

This description sounds very sparse. They are rarely seen in eastern suburbs but are quite resident in many other suburbs. I’m sure Aucklands kereru numbers have risen strongly with predator control.

P78. [Kaka] “… are present in small numbers in the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges. These large parrots seem to be occasional winter visitors to suburban Auckland, as every year there are reports of birds from places like Cornwall Park and the Domain.”

It sounds like Kaka numbers have dropped in the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges and suburban Auckland, I would say that the Gulf Islands and Mainland Sanctuaries are now the best places to find Kaka.

From a handbook perspective, Aucklands avian populations have changed a lot with some significant improvements for many species which is impressive given Aucklands human population more than doubled in the last 41 years.