Story: Birdwatching

Kōtuku breeding colony

Kōtuku breeding colony

The native kōtuku or white heron is rare in New Zealand, but reasonably common in Asia and Australia, where it is known as the great egret. In New Zealand they breed at only one site – in forest above Westland’s Waitangiroto River. They probably became established only within the last few hundred years. The total New Zealand population is fewer than 200 birds, and they disperse around the country outside the breeding season. Revered by Māori and Europeans for their elegance and their rarity, kōtuku have also been poached for their lacy breeding feathers. They have been protected by law since 1885.

Using this item

Private collection
Photograph by Christina Troup

This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) may infringe copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Gordon Ell, 'Birdwatching - Native and introduced birds', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 May 2022)

Story by Gordon Ell, published 24 Sep 2007, reviewed & revised 17 Feb 2015