Visit with 'stunning' spoonbills

01:47, Sep 25 2014
SHOW-OFF: A royal spoonbill preens itself ahead of the mating season at Wairau Lagoon.

Seduction tactics are running hot in the Wairau Lagoons this month, as royal spoonbills up their game for the breeding season.

The striking birds grow long white plumes from the back of their heads along with coloured patches on their faces in order to attract a mate.

Ornithologist Will Parsons, of Driftwood Eco-Tours, said the spoonbills were stunningly beautiful birds.

"Especially in the breeding plumes, with the hiawatha headdress. It's quite a dramatic change."

Parsons and wife Rose are launching their Meet the Royal Spoonbill Tour this Sunday, to coincide with World River Day.

The two-hour easy kayak trip will aim to travel within 10 metres of a group of spoonbills, to watch them digging up food from the mud, or preening their newfound mates.


Spoonbills tended to pair up and then join a communal group of around six birds, because they were more effective together when stirring up the mud with their spoon-like beaks, Parsons said.

"We're hoping families will come and take a look at the lagoon and these stunning birds. So many people in Marlborough don't realise what an incredible ecosystem we have on our back doorstep, and we really just want to show it off."

The tours were about more than just the spoonbills, with 90 species of birds in the lagoon, including godwits, which recently arrived there on their annual migration, Parsons said.

They were also about the rich history of the lagoon, which was first used as a hunting ground by Maori 800 years ago.

"I think it's very spiritual here. It's the oldest centre of civilisation in New Zealand, and it's like the hub of a wheel, because you can see all of Marlborough from there, as well as the North Island. It's got a real magic to it."

The tours, especially on World River Day, also educated people on the importance of protecting New Zealand's waterways, he said.

"This is an opportunity to see what our river looks like," Parsons said.

"You might see a bit of rubbish as you are going down, and think about why we need to be a bit more responsible."

Driftwood Eco-Tours' Meet the Royal Spoonbill Tours are this Sunday, next Sunday, Thursday, October 9 and Saturday, October 11.

The Marlborough Express