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Bird watching in Fiordland

Bird Watching Fiordland

Walk to Iris Burn Falls and spy the Summit Keas.

Your knees ache a little from your position crouched in the cold. Your binoculars slip a little from your gloves but you know it will all be worth it. You hear insects buzz and trill all around you. Water plunges behind you, crashing into the fiord below you. But that’s not why you’re here.

Then it happens.

This is what you’ve been waiting patiently for.

A Summit Kea circles overhead and from your lookout you note the greens and blues of its plumage. Even the browns of its underbelly glow gold in the fading light .

Welcome to Fiordland, every birder’s dream.

Follow some of the finest walks in the world as you retrace the steps of early explorers. Journey along valleys carved by glaciers, wander through ancient rainforests and admire cascading waterfalls, all while on the hunt for New Zealand’s unique native birds.

In Fiordland you can find birds as varied as the Tui, Weka, Kaka and Yellow-Crowned Kakariki, not to mention the varieties of Australasian migratory species you can find. Fiordland even has its own penguin colony. The Fiordland Crested Penguin or ‘tawaki’ can be found at Martin’s Bay, Milford Sound. Luckily, these penguins live in waters rich in food and have not seen a decline in numbers like many other penguin breeds.

The best way to see the greatest variety of birds is to take a trail deep into the heart of Fiordland. Here are the best paths in order of difficulty:

The Chasm Path Difficulty: Easy – 20 minutes return
Fill your lungs and stretch the legs just out of Milford Sound on this 20 minute walk. The Chasm is an impressive hole where a series of waterfalls have sculpted and scoured the granite over thousands of years.

Milford Foreshore Walk Difficulty: Easy – 30 minutes return
Spy a variety of birds as you pass through beech forest and along the sandy foreshore of Milford Sound.

Take sandfly repellent.

No. Really.

Milford Track Difficulty: Intermediate – 4 days one way
Grab your binoculars and take in the stunning panoramas from Mackinnon Pass across ancient valleys carved by glaciers.
Take a side trip to Sutherland Falls, which drop 580 m and enjoy the emerald waters of the Clinton River which is home to Brown Teal Pateke.

Stake out your perfect lookout spot before you trip with Google Street View!

For a comprehensive list of all of the birds commonly found while walking the Milford Track with information on their migration patterns visit NZ Birds.

Kepler Track Difficulty: Difficult – 60km loop/3-4 days (Seasonal exclusions apply)

One of the Great Walks of New Zealand, explore the fascinating Luxmore Caves and spot a Toutouwai or two. Walk to Iris Burn Falls and spy the Summit Keas.

Some tips for your trip:

  • It is important not to disturb the birds. This is particularly important in the nesting season. Admire the birds by all means but give them the space they need.
  • Sandfly repellent is always a good idea while near the waterways. These critters are tiny but their itchy bites pack a punch.
  • If long walks aren’t your thing, the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary where the rare, flightless Takahe steal the show.
  • For the twitchers reading, the last remaining population of takahe in the wild can be found at Murchison Mountains. It is estimated that there are only 230 takahe in existence.

As you can see there are many walks that can lead you into the territories of New Zealand’s most unique bird species. No matter which trail takes your fancy, there’s no better time than now to pack up your binoculars and get birding.