Wildlife - Kōtuku / white heron

Kōtuku / white heron

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The elegant kōtuku is rare in New Zealand and only breeds near Whataroa, on the West Coast. Outside of breeding season, between September and January, you may see them in the park’s coastal wetlands or estuaries.

Kōtuku are specially adapted for wading in shallow, muddy waterways. They have long legs that are bare of feathers to above the knee joint and long spreading toes. They feed in shallow water and particularly like whitebait. At night they roost in trees.

Because of its beautiful plumage, the kōtuku’s feathers were highly valued by Māori and European settlers. The species was nearly wiped out in New Zealand in the mid 1900s however numbers have now stabilised to around 150-200 birds in Aotearoa. The white heron is common in Australia, the South Pacific and Asia and known as the great egret.

Photo Bradley Shields
Bird calls courtesy of NZ birds online