Copyright © 2006-10 Kaipara Branch, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc. All rights reserved

Ducks and Dabchicks on dune lakes

South Head’s dune lakes are a haven for wetland bird life.  Ducks resident on the lakes include the abundant Mallard, the less common native Grey Duck, and the large native Paradise Shelducks.

A colourful treat, is the native Australasian Shoveller, distinguished by its large dark spatulate bill, and chestnut coloured flanks.  These ducks are slightly smaller than the Mallard and Grey Duck and sit low in the water. Birders are especially fond of the little Grey Teal that inhabit these inland lakes.  Grey Teal are quite small and round ducks with a dusky brown/grey colour, and a bright red eye.

But birding highlights of any visit to the dune lakes are not the ducks, but the grebes that are found there.  Grebes are small, fresh-water diving birds with no real tail and a short beak.  In the South Kaipara there are two main types on the dune lakes

More common of the grebes, is the Australasian Little Grebe, a rare self-introduced native from Australia that is

increasing in number since it started breeding here in the 1970s.  This is the smallest grebe and has a distinctive yellow “tear-drop” under the eye.

We also have our uncommon New Zealand endemic grebe, the Dabchick.   This bird is slightly larger and darker with a blackish head and a rusty chestnut foreneck and breast.  All the grebes are quite shy and will dive underwater when disturbed, often reappearing quite a distance away.

The dune lakes with their fringe of thick reeds and flax, provide ideal breeding and feeding places for these birds.

You can learn more about birding in the Kaipara with OSNZ by going to and selecting the contacts page for the  Auckland Branch details.

Grey Ducks and Dabchick     Photo: Suzi Phillips