Kōtuku ngutupapa/Royal Spoonbill Platalea regia
Native. At risk-naturally uncommon.
With its distinctive long black, spoon-shaped beak and all white plumage they are an easily recognised bird around the Estuary. They have a really noticeable yellow patch above the eye and at the onset of the breeding season both sexes develop a head crest.
Originally hailing from Australia, Kōtuku ngutupapa/Royal Spoonbills like many waterbirds are quite mobile and were first recorded in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1861. From then they have spread slowly throughout the country.
Between four and ten birds are seen in the Estuary during winter months. The highest ever recorded total of 58 being observed in 1993 which, at the time was believed to be the largest in the country. Nesting in the region has not been confirmed but they were suspected to have bred in the Whirikino swamp area during 1945.
Diet consists of small fish, crabs and aquatic invertebrates which they locate by sweeping their beak from side to side as they walk along in the shallows.