Street Stories: The Bird Reserve
Weka Place and Kotuku Place

There can be few cheekier birds in New Zealand than the inquisitive weka. This omnivorous bird, sometimes called the woodhen, will take possession of almost anything left unguarded, especially if bright and shiny. It is an aggressive little bird, a good rat killer, although its North Island range is now restricted to the Gisborne area. The flightless bird is said to have close relatives in Lord Howe Island and New Caledonia, raising an obvious question - how could these flightless birds that gave their name to Weka Place get to all these remote islands?

The kotuku, or white heron, is found in most parts of the world. The small New Zealand population, based on a breeding colony at Okarito in Westland, is an outlying branch of the Australian sub-species. The birds are sometimes blown over the Tasman Sea if a strong westerly blows for any length of time. Although common in many parts of the world the kotuku is scarce in New Zealand and was valued by the Maori for its rarity. It is sometimes seen in Wairarapa, where it occasionally overwinters.

Pic: Revered by Maori for their rareness, kotuku are usually only found at Okarito lagoon. Photo - J J Harrison