Pair of white herons really quite rare - DOC

16:00, Dec 23 2013
White herons
BIRDS OF A FEATHER: A pair of white herons, or kotuku, in the Roger Sutton Lagoon near Bluff Rd. 

A pair of native birds that are classified as nationally critical by the Department of Conservation have been spotted near Invercargill.

Two white herons, or kotuku, have been seen together in the Roger Sutton Lagoon near Bluff Rd.

Birds New Zealand regional recorder for Southland, Phil Rhodes, said that in 30 years of bird watching he had never seen a pair of white herons in Southland.

It was not uncommon to spot a solo white heron in Southland in winter months, he said, but to see two was rare and to see a pair during breeding season was unheard of.

The birds only have one nesting area, the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve in South Westland.

Breeding season is from September to January.


Rhodes said both birds seem to have breeding plumes on them, but it was possible they might be too young to breed, or a non-breeding pair.

The displays the two birds have been putting on might be mating rituals, he said.

A DOC spokeswoman said they were aware there was one white heron in the lagoon, but had not realised there were now two.

DOC staff were excited to hear there was a pair, and hoped they would start breeding, the spokeswoman said.


The white heron is listed as nationally critical, the highest classification before extinction.

There are only 100 to 120 left in the wild.

They were once hunted, almost to extinction, by Maori and European settlers for their beautiful plumage.

In 1941, there were just four nests remaining, so their breeding ground was declared a reserve and wildlife refuge and patrolled at breeding time.

The white heron is common in Australia, the South Pacific and Asia. 

The Southland Times