Our favourite native birds to spot while hiking in Fiordland

17 Feb 2017


Fiordland’s wilderness is home to an abundance of birdlife, some of which are rare and endangered. With fewer people in the area and pleasant weather, autumn is a great time for hiking in Fiordland and spotting these birds up close. Here are some of our favourite Fiordland native birds.

Spot the Kea when hiking in Fiordland

Regular entertainers in high altitudes, keas are notorious for their ability to destroy anything that can be pulled apart with a beak, even cars and tramping boots! These beautiful red and green mountain parrots are extremely clever and very sociable, although feeding or encouraging them is not a good idea at all. The cheeky keas are generally found on the Kepler, Routeburn or Milford Tracks, easily accessed as day walks from Te Anau.

kea for Kate

The Kea is well known in New Zealand for it's cheeky antics

Weka are birds you will definitely hear when hiking in Fiordland

Often mistaken for a kiwi, this flightless bird is famous for its feisty and curious personality. Wekas have a reputation for pilfering crops, food and other small objects, which they take under cover to investigate. If you do see a weka, don’t chase it. Watch it investigating its pilfered finds – it’s quite entertaining! Although, it is more likely that you’ll hear a weka rather than see it. Their best-known call is a loud ‘coo-et’ that is usually heard at dusk and in the early evening.

You can encounter these kleptomaniacs on a day walk to the stunning Key Summit (a must-visit) on Routeburn Track or on the Milford Track.  

hiking in New Zealand weka

The Weka is a flightless bird that is often mistaken for a Kiwi

Fiordland tokoeka (kiwi)

Fiordland tokoeka is an intermediate sized kiwi bird. Flightless, with tiny wings and no tail, they are generally nocturnal and are therefore more often heard than seen. You can identify the males with their high-pitched whistles while the females have a hoarse guttural call. The calls of a male tokoeka can easily be confused with that of a weka. Lucky then that on your guided walk, you will have an expert to help you distinguish the two. These reclusive birds can sometimes be heard along the Milford Track.


These large parrots belong to the nestorinae family, the same one as the cheeky kea. Fairly boisterous in the early mornings and late evenings, they are quite amusing with their antics. The kaka is olive-brown in colour with grey-white crown and bright, red-orange underwing and deep crimson belly and under-tail coverts.

The forests of Fiordland once rang with the squeals and chatter of this colourful bird. Sadly, predators now threaten their existence and Fiordland is one of the few places on the mainland where you’ll still see them – including on the well-maintained and easily accessible Kepler, Routeburn and Milford tracks.

Yellow-crowned parakeets (Kakariki)

These kakariki (meaning small green parrots in Maori) have a majestic yellow crown above their beaks a narrow crimson band between the crown and the cere, a red spot on each side of the rump and a blue leading edge to the outer wing. They are noisy little creatures that are commonly found high in the forest canopy on most of Fiordland’s epic tracks. They rarely come to the forest floor, so look up for them. They can be identified by their characteristic chatter made by both sexes when flying.

Blue Duck (Whio) 

Found only in New Zealand, these slate-coloured torrent ducks love clean, fast-flowing streams. Among the places they inhabit are Arthur and Clinton rivers along the Milford Track, one of Fiordland’s most famous walks. These endangered ducks have unique features such as streamlined head and large webbed feet to enable them to feed in fast moving water. You can also identify them with the male’s high-pitched aspirate sound – “whio” – and the female’s rattle-like call.  

hiking in New Zealand blue duck

Only in New Zealand will you get the chance to see a Blue Duck

We’re deeply passionate about Fiordland’s pristine wilderness and its quirky bird life. Our nature guides are quite well versed with the reclusive nature of some of our most famous feathered friends, and quite good at spotting them. You can also expect a good dose of Kiwi humour and warm hospitality in our easygoing small-group walks and tours.  

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