Wrybill (Anarhynchus frontalis)

Endemic. NZ migrant. Conservation status: vulnerable.

 

One percent of the NZ population of wrybills overwinters in the Manawatu Estuary, making this an important location for these waders. The best place to see them in the estuary is from the Dawick St viewing platform at high tide, when they roost on the sandspit. They're usually seen only in winter, since in summer they're breeding on South Island braided rivers.

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The wrybill is the only bird in the world to have a beak that is bent to one side and this is its most easily identifiable feature. Its grey colour makes it distinct from the majority of waders. A stocky wader, it has a pale grey back and white underparts and, in the breeding season, a thin black band across its breast. The black bill curves to the right. Its legs are grey green and not long. A gregarious bird in winter, it's usually seen in flocks on the estuary. It feeds on mudflats by sieving tiny crustaceans out of the water and mud, making sweeping motions with its bill. It also stalks and seizes polychaete worms and crabs, as well as probing the mud for worms and bivalves.