Ducks Unlimited NZ
Tuesday, 27 August 2019 18:14

Australian invader

Written by Liz Brook
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Feeding spot: Royal spoonbills around the mud flats just down from Waitangi boat ramp, Bay of Islands. Feeding spot: Royal spoonbills around the mud flats just down from Waitangi boat ramp, Bay of Islands. Zoe Nauschutz

Yet another immigrant from Australia, royal spoonbills were known to Maori as kotuku ngutu papa so must have visited here for many years. Their numbers seem to have  increased in the early 1940s. Some settled in the Waitangiroto River at Okarito. They have extended their range and now breed in a number of places, including Kapiti Island and Parengarenga and Manakau Harbours. There was a report of a colony up the Waiuku River. Royal spoonbills tend to breed near kotuku, shag and gull colonies. Some nests are high in kahikatea trees, others on low shrubs or on the ground. The birds assemble at nesting sites about October and begin their courting behaviour.

Spoonbills feed on insects, shellfish, small fish and frogs. They are readily identified in the distance by the way they feed, walking and sweeping their spoon bill in an arc, often knee deep in water. They feed day or night, whenever the tide is right.

 

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