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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 travelers, 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.

Sightings of banded/flagged birds at the Estuary
When bird-watching from the viewing platform on Dawick Street, coloured leg bands/rings may be seen on some birds. These have been applied through research projects, not only in Aotearoa New Zealand but also overseas. These can take the form of either plain colours, inscribed with numbers/letters or flags. Details are entered into a database which can, over time help build up a picture of some of their movements. Details on how to report these are explained in more detail on the research page here.
A few examples are given below for birds seen at the Estuary. This is only a snapshot of what has been recorded with Department of Conservation database holding extensive data sets. Complete details include age, sex and other records are held but those included via the link give only brief details. Top and side columns are locked so details scrollable. 

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