What's On at Zealandia


Flying the nest
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary
/ Categories: In the Valley, Conservation

Flying the nest

Sometimes it may be obvious that a bird is a fledgling: for example, if it’s begging noisily from a parent. Perhaps the most obvious example is the giant pīpīwharauroa chick begging from its tiny riroriro/grey warbler foster parent! A few of these have been spotted around the Wetlands Lawn and Te Māhanga track, so keep your eyes peeled next time you’re at Zealandia.  

Other times, however, it can be more subtle, like fluffed-up feathers, or a certain hesitancy or awkwardness in flight/landing. Similar to toddlers, fledglings are discovering how this whole flying and movement thing works: so if you see a bird plonking onto a branch and nearly falling off, picking up food and then clumsily dropping it, or landing on an offshoot that clearly can’t support its weight, it may well be a fledgling (the exception being kererū, which retain the inability to identify supportive branches into adulthood).  

There are also physical characteristics in some species that can help you distinguish fledglings from adult birds – below are some things to look out for in the manu around the valley! 

- Kākā: fledglings and juveniles have a pale ring around their eyes, which fades gradually as they age. 

- Kākāriki: recent fledglings have pinkish/grey bills (as opposed to the adult’s white with a black tip at the end of the bill). They also have an orange iris instead of the adult's scarlet. 

- Tūī: juveniles have browner bodies and lack the classic tūī throat tuft. 

If you see a fledgling, please give it space – while they can look like they are in trouble, they are normally just figuring out the world outside of their nest. 

Photo: Juvenile tūī by Donna Jennings. 

Previous Article Changing the current: Fish passage in Aotearoa
Next Article Bringing the birds back to town

Theme picker