Birds in Sika Country

Protecting birdlife in our bush

Every day, all around New Zealand, the dawn chorus tells us that our birdlife is one of our greatest treasures. However, New Zealand’s native birds are under threat from predators such as possums, rats and stoats.

The Central North Island Sika Foundation has been leading the Kaimanawa Whio Recovery Project since 2018, working with Predator Free NZ and DoC. The initiative has received national recognition and has been included in the DoC Whio forever programme as an official Whio Recovery Site.

So you can recognise and enjoy the specific sounds of our birdlife when out in the bush, here is an extensive list of NZ native birds and their songs and calls, as well as a few introduced species whose sounds make up a large part of the avifauna/bird song in our bush.

With thanks to NZ Birds Online and DoC for the information, images and MP3 soundbites.

Birds in Sika CountryNameDescription & Sound
Kāhu (Harrier hawk) Harriers mainly vocalise as part of their courtship displays during the breeding season. Their call is a series of same note, high-pitched, short, sharp “kee-o kee-o.” At other times of the year they are generally silent. It sounds like this.
Kākā Generally heard before they are seen, kākā are large, forest-dwelling parrots. Their sound is a harsh, repeated, rhythmic “ka-aa” when flying above the forest canopy, harsh grating “kraak” alarm call when disturbed. Also a variety of loud, musical whistles. Listen to it here.
KākārikiKākāriki, meaning ‘small green parrot’ in Māori, are beautiful forest birds. They feed on berries, seeds, fruit and insects, and generally nest in holes in trees.
They are often very quiet. In flight they make a loud rapid chatter that sounds like ‘ki-ki-ki-ki’. A soundbite here.
Kārearea (Falcon) The call of the kārearea (New Zealand falcon) was said to foretell the weather. If the bird screamed on a fine day, there would be rain the day after – if it screamed in wet weather, the next day would be clear. Listen to a kārearea here.
Karoro - Black-backed gull The karoro is the largest gull in New Zealand. They are scavengers on rivers or open tops, found all over NZ. They are one of only two native birds not protected by the Wildlife Act and sounds like this.
Kawau - Black Shag Found on rivers, the kawau is generally quiet away from nest. At the nest a variety of calls can be heard. Females have soft and husky sounds early in the breeding cycle but get much louder during incubation.Listen to it here.
Kereru (wood pigeon) The noisy beat of the New Zealand pigeon/kererū’s wings is a distinctive sound in our forests. They are usually found in forested areas. Listen to three adults in song and in-flight wingbeats.
Koekoea (long tailed cuckoo) The Koekoea or long-tailed cuckoo has a tail that is as long as the bird’s body. It mainly frequents forest, so is often difficult to observe closely. they are present from October to March in our area. Koekoea have a loud and intense sound, that resembles a shrill whistle. Listen to it here.
Korimako (bellbird) Bellbirds live in native forest, including mixed podocarp-hardwood and beech forest. They have three distinct sounds, that make the korimako easy to recognise, and their songs vary greatly from one place to another. Listen to a soundbite here.
Kotare – kingfisher Kingfishers are found widely in New Zealand in a wide range of habitats. The distinctive green-blue back and cap along with heavy black bill distinguishes it from other species. Kingfishers have a wide range of unmusical calls, the most distinctive of which is the staccato ‘kek-kek-kek’ territorial call. You can hear it here.
Mātātā (fernbird) Fernbirds inhabit wetlands throughout New Zealand and are common in mānuka shrublands/frost-flats. They are a potential indicator of wetland health because they are dependent on the presence of high quality and ecologically diverse habitats and rich food supplies. Click here to listen to the Mātātā.
Miromiro (tomtit)The New Zealand tomtit looks similar to a robin. They are a small bird with a large head, a short bill and tail, and live in forest and scrub. There are five known subspecies of tomtit, and they’re quite striking when you compare them. The Māori name of the North Island tomtit is miromiro and they sound like this.
North Island Brown Kiwi North Island brown kiwi have disappeared from many lowland sites and around the fringes due to a combination of habitat loss and predators. They emerge shortly after nightfall, and one of the simplest ways to locate kiwi is to listen. The call of the male kiwi is repetitive and shrill and has 8-25 notes. It sounds like this. The call of the female is a guttural sound of 10-20 notes. Listen to a soundbite here.
Pārera - grey duck The Pārera/NZ grey duck can be found on the rivers. Females give a typical decrescendo call of about 6 loud quacks in a row, soft quacks in communication with ducklings, and a rapid “gag gag gag” repulsion call in courting displays and when pursued by males. Males give soft “raeb raeb” call of variable length. This is what a pair of them sound like.
Pīhoihoi – Pipit The New Zealand pipit is a small brown-and-white songbird that can be found on tops or open country. Their main call given all year is a strident “tzweep”. A “tswee” call can be heard when they are on a fence post or on the ground when gathering invertebrates to feed their young, and they sing when in flight. It sounds like this.
Pipiwharauroa (shining cuckoo) The Pipiwharauroa (shining cuckoo) is present late September to late February. Their main call is a loud upwardly-slurred whistle repeated several times; the sequence usually ends with a downwardly-slurred whistle. This is what that sounds like.
Pīwakawaka (fantail) Known for its ‘cheet cheet’ call and energetic flying style, the fantail is one of the most common native birds on the New Zealand mainland. Originally a bird of open native forests and scrub, it is now also found in orchards and in gardens. It’s one of the few native bird species that has been able to adapt to a changing environment. A Pīwakawaka soundbite here.
Pōpokatea (Whitehead) The whitehead, also known as Nth Island bush canary or pōpokatea, is a small songbirds with a compact body, short tail and bill and long legs. Their song is a characteristic viu viu viu zir zir zir zir or canary-like twitter. This bird uses several other chirps or chatters for constant communication within the group. They sound like this.
Pūtakitaki - Paradise duck Pūtakitaki, or paradise ducks, can be found on grassy river flats. They are very vocal birds, with males giving a characteristic ‘zonk zonk’, while females make a more shrill sounding ‘zeek zeek’ while flying or as a warning to intruders. This is what they sound like.
Riroriro (grey warbler) The Riroriro or grey warbler is more often heard than seen, having a loud distinctive song, and tending to spend most of its time in dense vegetation. It’s a tiny, slim grey songbird that usually stays among canopy foliage. Only the males sing, although females do give short chirp calls, usually as a contact call near the male. Listen to a riroriro here.
Ruru (Morepork) Ruru, also known as morepork, has several types of calls. The ‘cree’ call sounds a bit male kiwi-like, but ruru usually only give 3 to 5 calls where a male kiwi always give 10 or more. The native morepork is known for its haunting, melancholic call and it’s this sound that has given the bird it’s Māori name 'ruru'. This is ruru's evening call.
The cree call sounds like this.
Tauhou - Silvereye The silvereye is one of New Zealand’s most abundant and widespread bird species. It is found throughout New Zealand and its offshore and outlying islands, occurring in most vegetated habitats, including suburban gardens, farmland, orchards, woodlands and forests. You can recognise it by a range of clear often high-pitched and melodious calls. Tauhou sounds like this.
Titipounamu (rifleman) The tiny rifleman is generally considered to be New Zealand’s smallest bird. It is one of only two surviving species within the ancient endemic New Zealand wren family. Riflemen are small forest-dwelling insectivores, and are constantly on the move, producing a characteristic ‘wing-flicking’ while moving through the canopy and foraging up and down tree trunks. Titipounamu sounds like this.
Toutoutwai (Bush robin) The North Island robin occurs in forest and scrub habitats. They have four recognisable vocalisations. Fullsong, a series of phrases given loudly by males and subsong which is at much less volume and given by both sexes. They also have a downscale series of loud ‘chuck’ calls, and the fourth vocalisation type is the ‘chuck’, which is given as single notes or in rapid succession when a predator is present. Listen to the Toutoutwai here.
Tui Tui are easy to recognise, boisterous and widespread birds that can be found in both forests and the suburbs. The sexes are alike, but the male is larger. They are usually very vocal, with a complicated mix of tuneful notes interspersed with coughs, grunts and wheezes. In flight, tui maintain contact and harass raptors with a repetitive scream. This is the sound of the Tui.
Warou - Welcome swallow Welcome swallows, or warou, are small fast-flying birds found in open country particularly around lakes, coasts, riverbeds and ponds. Their flight is circular and darting in style, and they may be seen singly, in pairs or in flocks. Their sound is fantail-like twittering, chattering and chirrups. Calls are generally quiet and do not carry far. Listen to a soundbite here.
Whio (Blue Duck) The blue duck or whio is an iconic species of clear fast-flowing rivers. They are nowhere common and at threat from predators, which is why the Sika Foundation is leading a protection programme in Sika country. Whio lives at low densities and its shrill “whio” whistle above the noise of turbulent waters is a sound you will rememberThis is the sound of a Whio pair. .

The following introduced birds are also common and make up a large part of the bird song in our bush:

Common introduced birds NameSound
Blackbird A blackbird soundbite here.
ChaffinchThe sound of a chaffinch
Dunnock Also known as hedge sparrows, the male sounds like this.
Greenfinch A greenfinch sounds like this
MagpieListen to the sound of the Magpie
RedpollThe Redpoll sounds like this
Song-thrush Click here for the Song-thrush soundbite