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Birds at the Estuary

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


Shorebirds are some of the special birds found at the Estuary. These are wading birds, most of whom live in wetland or coastal areas. Shorebirds usually feed by picking invertebrates out of the substrate of rivers, lakes, or coasts which usually involves some wading, hence the alternative name of waders.


The sandspit at Foxton Beach is the best place to view shorebirds and this is easily done at high tide. from the viewing platform on Dawick Street. At this time birds are mostly resting and are easy to observe and you may even be lucky enough to spot something out of the ordinary. When the tide is lower, birds can be seen feeding on the extensive mudflats.


Some species are exclusively estuarine (feeding only on the Estuary mudflats) but some species can also be  seen all along the Manawatū River. Many of the Estuary shorebirds are migratory arriving in good numbers for our summer while some Aotearoa New Zealand birds, like the Wrybill winter in the Estuary and then fly to the South Island to breed in summer.  Long distance travellers, the Bar-tailed Godwits are our renowned summer visitors, before returning to the Arctic 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. Each has a link at the end of some brief text to a more detailed account.

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

Ngutu pare/Wrybill
White-faced Heron
Royal Spoonbill
Kuriri/Pacific Golden Plover
Pacific Golden Plover
Kōtare/Sacred Kingfisher
Caspian Tern
White-fronted Tern
Tara/White-fronted Tern
Taranui/Caspian Tern
Southern Black-backed Gull
Red-billed Gull
Grey Teal
Australasian Shoveler
Karoro/Southern Black-backed Gull
Tarāpunga/Red-billed Gull
Tētē-moroiti/Grey Teal
Kuruwhengi/Australasian Shoveler
Kuihi/Canada Goose
Warou/Welcome Swallow
Pūkeko/Australasian Swamp Hen
Kōtuku/White Heron
Little Pied Shag
Kawaupaka/Little Pied Shag
Black Swan
Tarāpuka/Black-billed Gull
Kakīānau/Black Swan
Tūturiwhatu/Spur-winged Plover
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