The Queenstown New Zealand Bucket List Pt. 5: Visiting the Kiwi Birdlife Park
I am no Ornithologist by any means, but I can identify passion when I see it. And, my friends, the New Zealand people are passionate about their birds. I was incredibly moved by this admiration demonstrated when speaking about any of the country’s bird species. And with this in mind, we just had to spend some time learning more about these creatures and just how unique and special they truly are to the nation. So, we decided to explore the Kiwi Birdlife Park located just at the Skyline gondola.
So Just What Exactly is the Kiwi Birdlife Park?
The Kiwi Birdlife Park is a sanctuary located in the heart of Queenstown providing a home to many of New Zealand’s native birds. With 40% of the country’s native birds lost to extinction, efforts are being made to preserve and protect the remaining 60% from the same ill-fated future.
Admission is $59 NZD per person. It may sound steep, but all proceeds support the livelihood and projects in place for the birds living at the park. While at the park, attend a conservation show and learn more about the birds, the eco-system NZ is currently working with, and why the birds have been lost through time.
It is quite educational to learn of how humans introduced the majority of the animals in the country and how this introduction has affected the various species.
What are some of the Birds will I See While There?
What was first on my list? You guessed it- the most famous bird and the country’s icon – the Kiwi bird. The Kiwi Birdlife Park is the only place in the South Island of New Zealand where you can see the kiwi bird. As it is the most famous of all native birds, the Kiwi Birdlife Park has taken high preventative measures to keep the kiwi from becoming extinct.
The kiwi exhibit features an authentic nocturnal setting for these native birds. When entering the kiwi house, do keep in mind that photographs are not permitted and you will have to adjust your eyes to the dark room. While inside, marvel at being in the presence of one of the most unique and special birds on earth.
The kiwi feeds on a variety of insects, grubs, and vegetation. Being flightless, it has limitations in its ability to get around and avoid any potential predators. Sadly, due to animals being introduced in New Zealand, the kiwi is threatened by such enemies as possums and stouts.
The possum has become such a problem as they prolifically multiplied in New Zealand and changed their natural diets. Now, not only do they feed on plants and insects, but now kiwi eggs and chicks as well. This sad reality has forced the kiwi into endangerment, leaving the locals to find ways of saving their most prize icon.
Time your visit right so that you can attend an exclusive feeding session with the keepers. These sessions take place roughly four times daily where visitors can learn more about this special bird. They will explain in great detail about their lives, their diets, their enemies, and just what exactly they are doing to help the current situation in the wild. It is reassuring to know that their great efforts are increasing populations in the wild with chicks being hatched and protected from potential dangers.
New Zealand’s Pigeon
The New Zealand pigeon lives in forested areas of the North Island. Just like many pigeons, it can easily be identified with its smaller head and neck with a soft bill and thick plumage of green and white. Pigeons are distinct for their suction drinking and wing hitting if they feel threatened. They usually weigh approx. 650 grams and make a very identifiable coo when chirping. They have been threatened through the years and are currently protected by New Zealand conservation efforts. You can find the pigeon in the conservation show as well as their enclosure along the park’s marked path.
The kea is a large parrot dawning dark green feathers and a gray beak. They have been known in the wild to be quite the mischievous of characters! They are loved by the locals for their cheekiness and nerve as they can be caught chewing the rubber off your windshield. Yes, this would be annoying at the time, but you cannot help but adore these little imps of the bird world. Their natural habitat is mainly in areas near Arthur’s Pass in the South Island and have tripled in population since 1992.
New Zealand’s Treasured Moa
Now don’t get your hopes up, the moa sadly did not come back from extinction. However, I felt it was necessary to mention this creature in this post as he is so highly revered here as one of the most famous and special native birds in the country’s history.
The moa graced this earth up until roughly 500 years ago when it was sadly hunted into extinction. A flightless bird around double or triple the size of the ostrich, the moa continues to be recognized in the country symbolically through statues, museums, art galleries, conversations, souvenirs, books, and more. (Heck, there is even a clothing line named “Moa.”) As the moa is flightless with skeletons revealing no sign ever of wing bones, historians are still baffled on how they arrived to New Zealand in the first place. Most recent theories conclude that they arrived roughly 60 million years ago, though method of arrival still inconclusive from thorough fossil study.
It has been theorized through studying fossilized gizzards that the moa fed mainly on plants and insects. Some of the eight official species reached over eight feet tall and laid eggs up to 7 inches wide. As my guide on a Ziptrek tour joked, if you caught a moa, one of its drumsticks alone could feed a family for a month – yep, they were that huge.
It is sad that the moa could not survive the continuous hunting of the Maori people and the other extinct bird – the haaste eagle; however, its legacy will never die in a nation that cherishes its native birds more than any other on earth.
In conclusion, I highly recommend a visit to the Kiwi Birdlife Park. It only takes a couple of hours to get through the park, but it is a leisurely stroll marvelling at some native creatures who in some cases are fighting for survival in these tough environmental times.
If the voice can be heard to avoid introducing animals and species to brand new faunas that clearly are not naturally appropriate, fewer animals and birds would suffer and be driven to extinction. Just by visiting the park, you are supporting the future of these birds and their potential to live freely in the habitat they were naturally born to live.
At the end of your visit, do browse their lovely gift shop of rare birdie items, (like the neat hand painted mugs they use in the cafe shown above!) See my post on my Top 7 Foodie Musts for more details on their amazing hot chocolate served in the cafe!
For More Queenstown inspiration, Check out my other posts on amazing activities to spend your vacation!