There are many opportunities for bird watching around the city of Auckland.
Self-drive day trips from the city centre offer many choices to the keen bird watcher.
Although Auckland is not well-known as one of New Zealand’s most celebrated bird watching places, it has a lot to offer bird watchers.
Rare birds such as Stitchbirds, Kokako, North Island Robins, and Whitehead were reintroduced to several conservation projects around the city, and forest, wetland and coastal birds, can be seen within easy reach of central Auckland.
Tiritiri Matangi Island
The most famous of these conservation projects is Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf, which is a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland. There you can see rare, endemic, New Zealand birds such as the Saddleback, Stitchbird, Takahe, Kokako, and Kakariki. Many other more common birds are easily seen, and the island is well set up for visitors with guided tours available and a well-equipped visitors centre and gift-shop. An added treat is the rare reptile, the Tuatara, that was re-introduced to the island and can sometimes be seen basking in the sunshine.
For keen seabird watchers, there are organised pelagics available north of Auckland, to view the many seabirds that abound in the Gulf, including the Buller’s Albatross, Australasian Gannet, Cook’s Petrel, and Buller’s Shearwater. New Zealand is known as the seabird capital of the world, and the Hauraki Gulf has many species of interest. One highlight is the rare and recently re-discovered, New Zealand Storm Petrel, usually seen in the spring.
An Ark in the Park
West of Auckland there is good bird watching in the rainforests of the Waitakere Ranges and a conservation project called Ark in the Park. On easy access tracks, it is possible to see forest birds such as Tui, Fantails, Kereru, Grey Warbler,Tomtit, and Stitchbirds. There is an excellent Visitors Centre on Scenic Drive near Titirangi, and north of there, at the Cascades end of Falls Road, is the best place to see birds. Take the Auckland City Walk loop track for an easy one to two hours of bird watching among some of New Zealand’s prime rainforest and stunning kauri trees.
In central Auckland, there are many small parks to see wetland birds, and the coastline of this harbour city is a great place for watching coastal and seabirds. The best of these are the ponds at Western Springs near Auckland Zoo, and the wetlands of Waiatarua Reserve, (off Grand Drive, St Johns Park). Another highlight is a small coastal reserve at the end of West Tamaki Drive on the Tamaki River estuary, called Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve.
Shorebirds at Miranda
Auckland is also well-known for wading birds, and at Miranda, (an hour’s drive south of Auckland on the Firth of Thames), you can see what is around at one of New Zealand’s premium shorebird sites. The Miranda Shorebird Centre has a visitor centre, bookshop, and interpretation that is well worth a visit before you head out to see what waders are on the shore-line. An hour either side of high tide is the best time to visit. Shorebirds to see there might include the rare New Zealand wader, the Wrybill, as well as endemic oystercatchers, dotterels, stilts and egrets, and northern hemisphere birds such as godwit, knot, sandpiper, and tern species.
Over the Auckland Harbour Bridge
North of central Auckland, over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and about 20 minutes up the State Highway 1 motorway to Orewa, you can visit the nearby coastal reserves of Shakespear Regional Park (near Army Bay on the Whangaparoa Peninsula), and Wenderholm Regional Park (just north of Waiwera).
These beautiful coastal parks boast white-sand beaches, picturesque estuaries, and stands of native rainforest, where forest birds such as Tui, Fantail, Kereru and Robins can be seen, as well as wetland birds such as white-faced Heron, Kingfisher, Pukeko, Spotless Crake, Brown Teal, and Paradise Shelduck. An early morning visit might even reward with close-up views of a Banded Rail on the estuary margins. All within an easy drive of central Auckland.