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Birds at the estuary

Around 95 species have been seen on the estuary, which means the estuary holds one of the highest bird diversities in the country.


Waders are some of the special birds found at the estuary. Waders are wading birds, most of whom live in wetland or coastal areas. Many of them are migratory, some travelling huge distances and circumnavigating the planet each year. Waders usually feed by picking invertebrates out of the substrate of rivers, lakes, or coasts; this usually involves some wading, hence the name.


At the Manawatu Estuary, waders can best be seen roosting on the tip of the sandspit at Foxton Beach at high tide (the viewing platform on Dawick St is the best place for seeing these birds). They can also be seen at lower tide, feeding on the mudflats. Some species are exclusively estuarine (feeding only on the estuary mudflats) but some species can be seen all along the Manawatu River. Many of the estuary waders are migratory; NZ birds like the wrybill winter in the estuary and then fly to the South Island to breed in summer, while Asian birds like the godwits spend our summer here before returning to the Artic for the northern summer to breed. As well as waders, seabirds and wetland birds are present at the estuary.

Some of the birds you might see are shown below. Click on the images to learn more about these special species. A printable booklet about some of the more commonly sighted species is also available here.

Many thanks to Terry Oliver-Ward for providing these beautiful photographs

Red Knot
Bar-tailed Godwit
Banded Dotterel
Pied Stilt
White-Faced Heron
Royal Spoonbill
White Heron
Pacific Golden Plover
Sacred Kingfisher
Caspian Tern
White Fronted Tern
Black Billed Gull
Red Billed Gull
Black Backed Gull
Black Swan
Grey Teal
NZ Shoveler
Mallard Duck
Canada Goose
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