Royal spoonbills wing it over St Clair

Kotuku ngutupapa, the royal spoonbill, is one of six spoonbill species worldwide, and the only one that breeds in New Zealand.

The large white waterbird was first recorded in New Zealand at Castlepoint in 1861.

Spoonbills are technically ‘‘native’’ as they flew here by natural means.

Sightings increased through the 1900s, with breeding first recorded next to the white heron colony at Okarito, south Westland, in 1949.

Since then, spoonbills have successfully colonised New Zealand. In 1984, breeding in Otago began with a colony at Moeraki.

The largest number of colonies in New Zealand is in the Otago and Southland regions.

The birds, seen here flying south over St Clair in Dunedin this week, disperse from breeding sites to coastal sites across the country after the breeding season, which is in October.

Spoonbills regularly fly in lines or ‘‘V’’ formation. Birds fly in a ‘‘V’’ to conserve energy — each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of them, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance.

The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. The formation also makes it easy to keep track of every bird in the group.


Spectacular! Well done!



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