Bird Watching in Kaikoura

Are you a birder, twitcher, bird photographer, or simply someone who is just interested in seeing some of the resident birds around Kaikoura?

Kaikoura isn’t just about what’s in the water; there’s plenty to see on land as well!

Kaikoura is well known for its seabird and water bird species. We will cover them on this page. But we’ll also reveal other birds you can see around further away from the water. The lesser known Kaikoura residents who are no less interesting or beautiful than the town’s more famous inhabitants.

Bird Species of Kaikoura

eBird, the world’s most popular and widely used bird reporting website, keeps a list of the 100 birding hotspots in New Zealand. Currently, Kaikoura has three different hotspots in the top 20 New Zealand birding locations – not bad at all! And that’s not considering other locations nearby Kaikoura and the surrounding region.

As of February 2019, the following eBird statistics are relevant for Kaikoura:

Location # Species Recorded
Kaikoura Albatross Encounter pelagic 104
Kaikoura Point Kean Seal Colony 87
Kaikoura Peninsula 84
South Bay, Kaikoura 67
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway 64

As you can see, even a walk along the peninsula walkway at Kaikoura can yield some excellent birding. Although many of the 64 may be uncommon, you’re still likely to see a good number of birds around if you pay attention to your surroundings.

Here’s a list of birds see over the years at or near the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway:

Paradise Shelduck
Rock Pigeon
Pied Stilt
South Island Oystercatcher
Variable Oystercatcher
Masked Lapwing
Double-banded Plover
Red-billed Gull
Kelp Gull
White-fronted Tern
Little Pied Cormorant
Pied Cormorant
White-faced Heron
Royal Spoonbill
New Zealand Bellbird
Gray Gerygone
Eurasian Skylark
Welcome Swallow
Song Thrush
Eurasian Blackbird
European Starling
Common Chaffinch
European Greenfinch
Common Redpoll
European Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Caspian Tern
Hutton’s Shearwater
California Quail
New Zealand Fantail
Northern Giant-Petrel
Fluttering Shearwater
Spotted Shag
Pacific Reef-Heron
Royal Albatross
Ruddy Turnstone
Black-fronted Tern
Australasian Gannet
Sacred Kingfisher
Parasitic Jaeger
White-capped Albatross
Salvin’s Albatross
Wandering Albatross
Cape Petrel
Westland Petrel
Yellow-eyed Penguin
New Zealand Falcon
Swamp Harrier
Australian Magpie
Great Cormorant
Northern/Southern Giant-Petrel
Short-tailed Shearwater
Cirl Bunting
Sooty Shearwater
Gray Teal
Black-billed Gull
Black-browed Albatross
Fairy Prion
Common Diving-Petrel
Gray-tailed/Wandering Tattler
Buller’s Shearwater
New Zealand Pigeon

If you want to see marine birds in New Zealand, Kaikoura is the place to do it. From majestic Great Albatross who spend their entire lives on the sea, to the smaller Shearwaters, Kaikoura is a birdwatcher’s paradise.

How to see Seabirds in Kaikoura

If you are going on a whale watching tour, you are likely to come across many birds along the way.
If however you want to embark on a more bird-specific tour then there are a number of options for heading out on to the water on a pelagic trip with highly knowledgable local bird guides who know exactly where and how to find birds, and can assist in identification. Albatross Encounter is one such company, with specialist pelagic bird watching tours available for $150 (adult price).

More than any other location on mainland NZ, Kaikoura is a hotspot for seabirds.

Albatross (13 species)
Petrels (14 species)
Shearwaters (7 species)
Plus many other types of seabirds and waterbirds including gulls, shags, terns and a special little penguin.

For the same reason that whales are attracted to the waters off Kaikoura, birds of the ocean also gather close inshore to Kaikoura to access the nutrient rich shallow waters near the coast before the land drops away into the Kaikoura canyon (check this fact**), where the rich food chain supports creatures great and small. Birds, of course, play an important role.