14 Common BIRDS That Live in New Zealand! (2023)

Do you want to learn about the types of birds found in New Zealand?

birds that live in New Zealand

Well, you have come to the right place!

Today, you will learn about the 14 most COMMON types of birds in New Zealand!

  • *Due to the sheer number of species, there was no way to include every bird in New Zealand in this article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.

#1. Australian Magpie

    • Gymnorhina tibicen

Also known as the Tasmanian Magpie, Flute-bird, and Piping Crow-shrike. birds that live in New Zealand

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 37-43 cm (15-17 in) long with a wingspan of 65-85 cm (26-33 in).
    • Adults have red irises and mostly black feathers. Juveniles have dark eyes and brown feathers.
    • Their wedge-shaped beaks have black tips.
    • The napes, shoulders, and upper tails are lighter in color.

This iconic species is the most recognizable bird in New Zealand!

The Australian Magpie freely roams the country’s cities and suburbs. While these birds might snatch some grains from your birdfeeder, they prefer foraging on the ground for insects and worms.

  Australian Magpies are territorial, often claiming an entire street for years. So, you might look at the same magpies daily on your morning commute. They’re also a highly intelligent species that can memorize over a hundred human faces! Unsurprisingly, people have befriended these birds in the wild by routinely feeding them.

Australian Magpies have an impressive vocal range. They sing in pairs or groups, making sounds that might remind you of flutes. They also copy other species’ birdsongs. Amazingly, they can even mimic human speech!  

#2. Australian Wood Duck

    • Chenonetta jubata

Also known as the Maned Duck or Maned Goose.

birds that live in New Zealand

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 45-51 cm (18-20 in) long with a wingspan of 76-85 cm (30-33 in).
    • Their heads are brown, and they have gray wings, black tails, and marbled breasts.
    • Females have a pair of white streaks that run through each eye. Their mottling also continues down to their undersides.

  Australian Wood Ducks inhabit wetlands and wooded areas throughout New Zealand. They have also adapted well to human-populated areas. Your favorite park might be home to a family of these ducks! Listen for loud honks and rhythmic chattering. Females sound croaky, while males have smoother and higher-pitched calls.

  Though they’re comfortable in the water, they spend much of their time on land foraging for grass, herbs, and insects. Other times, they graze on the water’s surface, feeding on floating vegetation. When threatened, Australian Wood Ducks swim toward deeper water where land predators can’t pursue them.

Females typically lay eggs inside tree hollows near ponds or lakes. Newly hatched ducklings have a bit of a daredevil streak: they jump out of the nest and straight into the water! The chicks spread their wings and feet to slow down their fall.  

#3. Silver Gull

    • Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae

Also known as the Red-billed Gull. birds that live in New Zealand

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 40-45 cm (15-17 in) long with a wingspan of about 94 cm (37 in).
    • Their bodies are stark white, with gray wings that get darker toward the tips.
    • Adults have red-orange beaks and legs. Juveniles have dark beaks and brown wings.


Silver Gulls are the most common type of gull in New Zealand.

As a highly energetic and social species, they love to flock in groups around coastal cities. Hold on to your fries! These mischievous birds are known for stealing food from oblivious tourists.


If there isn’t an unsuspecting beachgoer nearby, Silver Gulls prey on fish and crabs. They sometimes circle above fishing vessels or scavenge urban sites for leftovers. Note, however, that it’s not advisable to feed seagulls. They might become dependent on humans to the point of aggression if they don’t get a snack.

  Amazingly, you can tell how old a gull is by how colorful its beak is! For example, Silver Gulls have dull brown or gray beaks when they’re young, but as they age, it changes color from pink to vibrant red.  

#4. Galah

    • Eolophus roseicapilla

Also known as the Pink Cockatoo and Red-breasted Cockatoo. birds that live in New Zealand

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 35 cm (14 in) long, with 75 cm (30 in) wingspans.
    • Males have dark brown irises, while females have red ones.
    • Their backs, wings, and tails are silver. Their heads and undersides are reddish pink, with pale pink retractable crests.


There are large numbers of these birds in New Zealand in metropolitan areas. This is because, in the 1960s, many Galahs escaped captivity. Today, they are one of the most common cockatoos in the country. Keep your ears open for their shrill, metallic shrieks! 

  These parrots are as flamboyant as they look. They are loud and sociable, often gathering by the hundreds! Flocks may include other species of cockatoos as well. While individuals usually eat seeds on the ground, larger flocks can be detrimental to local ecosystems. The flocks go from tree to tree, picking off so many leaves that the trees often die.  

#5. Laughing Kookaburra

    • Dacelo novaeguineae

Also known as the Great Brown Kingfisher and Laughing Jackass. birds that live in New Zealand

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults grow 41-47 cm (16-19 in) long with a wingspan of 56-66 cm (22-26 in).
    • They have large heads with a brown streak behind their eyes.
    • Their bodies are cream-colored, and their backs, wings, and rumps are brown.


This famous bird is one of the most recognizable in New Zealand!

It frequents woodlands, urban parks, and gardens. As their name suggests, Laughing Kookaburras are best identified by their “koo-koo-kaa-kaa” laughter. They call out as a group to establish their territory. Usually, you can hear them just before the sun sets and rises.

  Laughing Kookaburras normally feed on small rodents, fish, and insects. They perch on tree branches, quietly waiting for passing prey before rapidly swooping down for the kill. Astoundingly, they will even hunt venomous snakes in Australia!

This species is comfortable around people and will eat off your hand if you offer them scraps of meat. But watch out! These mischievous birds can also steal your food if you’re not paying attention. Keep your snacks covered!

#6. Masked Lapwing

    • Vanellus miles

Also known as the Masked Plover, Spur-winged Plover, and Black-shouldered Lapwing. birds that live in New Zealand

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 30-37 cm (12-15 in) long with wingspans of 75-85 cm (30-33 in).
    • Look for their drooping, bright yellow masks!
    • They have sharp yellow spurs on the joints of their wings. Males have larger spurs than females.
    • Their coloring is grayish-brown on the wings, with a white throat and undersides. They have a black cap.


Masked Lapwings are native birds to the wetlands of New Zealand. However, many specimens have settled in the suburbs. Be careful where you park your car! Masked Lapwings build their nests out in the open, even in the middle of parking areas. In airports, they pose the risk of getting sucked into plane engines.

Adult Masked Lapwings are always on high alert for potential threats, making loud “kekekeke” calls to warn their young. Long, continuous calls instruct fledglings to come to them. On the other hand, chirps with short pauses tell them to flee while the parent distracts a predator. 


Be careful not to disturb these birds! Masked Lapwings defend their nesting grounds by swooping in with their sharp spurs. Normally shy and mild-mannered, these large birds become more aggressive during their nesting season. Several attacks on humans have been recorded.

#7. Rainbow Lorikeet

    • Trichoglossus moluccanus

Also known as the Lory, Rainbow Bird.

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults grow 25-30 cm (10-12 in) long. The average wingspan is 17 cm (7 in).
    • These birds are as colorful as their name suggests! Their heads and bellies are blue, while their wings and tails are green. Their breasts are a mix of yellow and orange.
    • Adults have bright red beaks, while juveniles have black ones.


Rainbow Lorikeets are one of the most popular birds in New Zealand.

Originally inhabiting rainforests, they have since adapted to urban environments with tree coverage. Listen for their high-pitched chattering and squawking! 


Rainbow Lorikeet couples do everything together. They travel, feed, and care for their children as pairs. But their cooperative nature doesn’t extend to other individuals! Sensing rival birds, they will ferociously defend their nesting and feeding grounds.   This species isn’t picky when it comes to dinnertime. Their tongues specialize in collecting nectar and pollen, but they also eat insects. You can even attract Rainbow Lorikeets to your backyard feeders with cut fruit and sunflower seeds.

#8. Australasian Swamphen

    • Porphyrio melanotus

Also known as the Pukeko or Purple Swamphen.

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults grow to 48 cm (19 in) long with a wingspan of 88 cm (35 in).
    • They have large, red beaks and long toes.
    • Their plumage is dark overall, with purple undersides.

  Australasian Swamphens are clumsy animals! Ungraceful with lift-off and landing, they prefer flying short distances or staying on the ground. They thrive in wet habitats like swamps and marshes, though you might spot one loitering around ponds in a park.

While they’re accomplished swimmers, Australasian Swamphens would rather wade through shallow water to inspect floating vegetation. They eat reeds and snails and occasionally raid duck nests for eggs and hatchlings. They use their unusually long toes to grab food.

Their wild “kak-kak” and “kee-ow” calls are unmistakable! To repel predators, up to a dozen Australasian Swamphens will gather and scream in unison. 

#9. Black Swan

    • Cygnus atratus

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 110-142 cm (43-56 in) long with a wingspan of 160-200 cm (63-79 in).
    • Like most swans, they have long, slender necks. Their bills are red-orange.
    • Their feathers are black with slight white mottling and a white streak on the wings.
    • Juveniles have fluffy, light gray feathers and black bills.


These widespread birds in New Zealand favor permanent wetlands and bay areas.

Black Swans are plant-eaters. They plunge their long necks up to a meter below the water’s surface to graze on weeds and algae. When traveling to new territories, they fly at night and rest during the day.

When listening to these water birds, you might mistake them for a jazz band’s warmups! Black Swans have distinct trumpet-like calls you can hear from far away. 


Watch out, or these feisty swans may nip at your ankles! They fiercely protect their nests, attacking anything that gets too close for their liking. But, despite their parents’ protectiveness, chicks can swim and feed themselves right after hatching. And by three months of age, they’re ready to thrive on their own.  

#10. Crested Pigeon

    • Ocyphaps lophotes

Also known as the Topknot Pigeon or Crested Bronzewing.

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 30-34 cm (12-13 in) long with wingspans of 45 cm (18 in).
    • They have long, wispy head crests.
    • Their plumage is gray-brown and lighter at the breast and belly. Their primary feathers have colorful patches of bronze and purple, and their wings have black stripes.


Look overhead if you hear a whistle! While in flight, the Crested Pigeon generates a high-pitched noise using a special feather in its wings. This noise distracts predatory birds and alerts their flock of danger, giving them a chance to escape. It’s almost unbelievable that this sound comes from their wings!

  Crested Pigeons inhabit lightly wooded grasslands, though populations have also expanded to cities and suburbs. Here they feed on seeds, crops, insects, and food scraps. Large flocks often congregate in trees around watering holes, making a cooing noise like other pigeons and doves.


Crested Pigeons are accustomed to humans and easy to approach when on the ground. In fact, they might even approach you first. These birds frequently beg people for food, going so far as to visit households. Get your birdfeeder ready!  

#11. Pacific Black Duck

    • Anas superciliosa

Also known as the Grey Duck, Brown Duck, or Wild Duck.

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 50-60 cm (20-24 in) long with a wingspan of 82-93 cm (32-37 in).
    • They got their common name from the black stripes on their head which extend past the eyes.
    • Their body plumage is gray-brown, though they have an iridescent blue-green patch on their wings. Their underwings are white.


Pacific Black Ducks thrive in most habitats with bodies of water. They’re able to adapt to people very well! For example, ducks that live far away from civilization will flee if approached. Meanwhile, suburban specimens are tamer and more comfortable with people. Don’t go near their children, though! Adult ducks will hiss at you if you get too close.

Their favorite meal is aquatic plants, but they also eat insects and mollusks. Pacific Black Ducks will dip their heads into the water to forage for food. These social, gregarious waterfowl tend to do everything in pairs or small groups.

Listen for a call similar to that of a mallard. If you hear a stereotypical “quack-quack,” you’re listening to a female duck. Males sound more like “rhaab-rhaab.” 

#12. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

    • Cacatua galerita

Also known as the Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoo or White Cockatoo.

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 44-55 cm (17-22 in), with wingspans up to 103 cm (41 in).
    • Their most prominent feature is the lemon-yellow crest at the back of their head.
    • They are uniformly white-feathered aside from their yellow underwings, black beaks, and feet.


Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are one of the most recognizable birds in New Zealand.

You might spot a single cockatoo perched on a high tree branch, acting as a lookout while the rest of its flock eat. Cover your ears! This bird will let out a deafening shriek if it perceives you as a threat.

If you live in the suburbs, you might notice growing numbers of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. These birds are becoming well-acquainted with people, and they openly accept food from humans. They have strong beaks that can crack open nuts, and they also forage for roots and berries.   Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have an interesting “dental” habit! To keep their beaks from growing too big, they wear them down by biting off small tree branches. The hard branches act as a file, keeping their beaks from becoming large and cumbersome.

#13. White-faced Heron

    • Egretta novaehollandiae

Also known as the White-fronted Heron.

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 60-70 cm (24-28) long, with a wingspan of about 106 cm (42 in).
    • They have slender necks and long, pointed beaks.
    • Their white face is distinct from the rest of their gray or steel-blue bodies.


These majestic birds in New Zealand live in any environment with a body of water.

Look for them on mudflats and beaches. White-faced Herons also frequently visit towns, often perching on roofs and telephone poles. And don’t forget to listen! A heron returning to its nest will announce its arrival with a booming “gow-gow-gow” call. But most of the time, it makes gravelly “graaw-graaw” croaks.


If you see a White-faced Heron standing still in the shallows, it’s likely hunting for food! It observes the movement of fish and frogs, waiting for the right chance to spear one with its beak. If that doesn’t work, it will wade through the water to disturb its prey, then strike. Clever!

#14. Kelp Gull

    • Larus dominicanus

Also known as the Dominican Gull, Black-backed Gull, Mollyhawk, Karoro, or Cape Gull.

Identifying Characteristics:

    • Adults are 54-65 cm (21-26 in) long with a wingspan of 128-142 (50-56 in).
    • They have large yellow beaks and long yellow legs.
    • Their plumage is mostly white, though their upper wings and backs are black.


Kelp Gulls are particularly plentiful along coastlines in New Zealand. They take shelter in inlets, where they avoid harsh weather. You might even see large flocks traveling inland to coastal towns, where they raid garbage bins and landfills for food. Listen for their harsh “ki-och” screeches.

Their diets consist primarily of crustaceans and fish. Creatively, these gulls drop mollusks from great heights to break their shells. In rare instances, if there’s a shortage of food, Kelp Gulls may parasitize breaching whales, biting off chunks of their blubber. However, other gulls do this much more frequently. This species prefers shellfish!

Which of these birds in New Zealand have you seen before?

  Leave a comment below!  


And check out this field guide for even more information on birds in New Zealand! 

Check out these guides to other animals found in New Zealand!


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