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Wetland birds

Wetlands in the Norwest are vital for many species of shy birds that most people rarely see.

Areas of raupo swamp, riverside reeds, flax fringed ponds and lakes, mangroves and salt marshes, are all important wetland habitat.

In these habitats you often see many of the more common wetland species such as Pukeko, ducks, grebes and shags.

Birds that inhabit wetlands, but are seen and heard only rarely, include Spotless Crake, Banded Rail, and Marsh Crake, as well as Bittern and Fernbird.

Most of these birds prefer dense cover, are more active at dawn and dusk, and are very shy of humans.  Despite being so cryptic, they are also important to our avian biodiversity. 

Only about 10 percent of wetland areas have survived in New Zealand and with their decline due to agricultural and urban developments, so too have specialist wetland bird species. 

Banded Rail look like small striped weka (to 30cm).  They have brown wings and tail with black and white flecks, and strong black and white barring on their underparts. 

Although they are very secretive on the mainland, in places like Great Barrier Island where there are fewer predators and people, they are seen out and about during the day.

Spotless Crake or Puweto, are a tiny dark rail, measuring just 20cm that utter a variety of calls from cover, including

one that is described as a descending purrrrrrrr, like an alarm clock running down.  These birds have brown wingsand upperparts, dark grey-blue underparts, a red eye ring and reddish legs.  They prefer freshwater wetlands fringed with raupo or sedge.

Another member of the rail family, the Marsh Crake is rarely seen, but often responds to taped calls.  These birds look like a minature Banded Rail, utter a harsh ‘krek’ call and inhabit dense reed beds and rushes in estuarine or freshwater wetlands.

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

Banded rail  Photo: Suzi Phillips