The Open Sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi is a special place with birds and wildlife in abundance and one that you won’t forget in a hurry. Just a short ferry ride from the Auckland CBD and you’ll be transported to a place of birdsong and tranquility. But hey, don’t take my word for it go and check it out for yourself!
Read on to find out which birds you’d expect to see on Tiritiri Matangi, how to book your tickets and even how to stay the night!
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Tiritiri Matangi – What You Need to Know
Tiritiri Matangi is an island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. There are several walks to choose from on the island, each ranging from 20 minutes to 4 hours.
It is unique in the sense that it is an island that is reserved purely for wildlife. Many years ago it was nothing but farmland, but thanks to a group of enthusiastic volunteers, it is now home to many species of birds and animals native to New Zealand.
In terms of the birdlife, some are endemic and some have been introduced. Basically, as the volunteers continued to work hard to plant native trees and re-establish forest, the land began to flourish. Today, along with a rich birdlife there are other species of wildlife, for example Tuatara and Weta inhabit the island to name just a couple.
Because Tiritiri Matangi is a sanctuary, you will not find cafe’s, shops and the like here. The only residents you will find is one Department of Conservation (DoC) officer and a lot of very settled birds and animals.
For this reason, there is a pack in, pack out policy. You will need take all food and water with you and naturally, take it all back out with you.
There is also a DoC bunkhouse for those wishing to stay a few nights, a small gift shop, toilets and a lighthouse. If you’d like to book the bunkhouse continue reading to the end and we’ll tell you how.
The Birds of Tiritiri Matangi
Below is a list of many of the birds found on Tiritiri Matangi. We were fortunate to see most of them on our visit because we had a guide. The birds are hard to find unless you know what your are looking for. Each species have their own preferred habitat and the guides know the island like the back of their hand. What’s best, is that they are volunteers, the small fee that you pay for their expertise goes straight back to the island.
So if there is any single take away from this post, let it be that you take our advice and get a guide!
Here are some of the birds you are likely to see. All listed here are native to New Zealand.
Kererū – Wood Pigeon
One of my favourites, the Kererū sings a beautiful song. They love the puriri berry and you can hear their swooping wings as they fly, this is mainly due to their sheer size.
The flightless Takahē is one of the stars of the island. This is because the Takahē is endangered and typically only found in the South Island of New Zealand. They were released on Tiritiri Matangi in 1991 and this is now the best place to see one up close and personal in the North Island. They are easy to find and are often seen hanging out near the gift shop and DoC bunkhouse.
Ruru – Morepork
This little owl has a beautiful call, but you won’t likely hear it of course during the day. If you spot one, it will likely be tucked up in under cover of a tree, trying to catch some sleep.
The Tūī is one of New Zealand’s most common native birds and they have an extraordinary repertoire of sounds. There is a great feeding station just outside the gift shop where you’ll find them for that perfect close up.
Korora – Blue Penguin
If you are lucky you can catch the Blue Penguin nesting in the nesting boxes on the path between Hobbs beach and the ferry landing. Approach quietly and follow the guides instructions on how best to see them without disturbing them.
Korimako – Bellbird
The Korimako is endemic to Tiritiri Matangi. The male is dark green in colour and the female is similar but with less vibrancy. They are seen in abundance on the island and often found at the feeding stations dotted along the path.
Hihi – Stitchbird
The Hihi is special to Tiritiri Matangi as they largely no longer exist on the mainland. They are threatened, and one of the reasons for this is that they are less dominant than birds such as the Tūī and Korimako. Therefore, they get less access to strong food sources. In order to resolve this, special feeding stations have been distributed around the island to allow Hihi better feeding access.
Popokatea – Whitehead
The Whitehead while relatively easy to spot given that it looks like it’s name, is less prolific than the likes of the Korimako or Hihi. Therefore, a guide is your best chance at finding a Whitehead.
Titipounamu – Rifleman
And as above, the same applies for the Rifleman. We were lucky to spot one (but sadly not photograph one). The Rifleman is New Zealand’s smallest bird and its numbers are under threat.
The Kōkako has a striking plumage with blue and grey colours. Larger in size, they are not easily found as only 20-30 live on Tiritiri Matangi. Your best chance to see one is on the Wattle Track between the ferry landing and the Lighthouse. But once again, we highly recommend booking a guide, as this will be your best chance at finding one.
Tīeke – Saddleback
The Saddleback is endemic to Tiritiri Matangi and despite the fact that there are many living on the island, they no longer exist on the mainland. They are very distinctive with a red/orange and black plumage.
Pīwakawaka – Fantail
The Pīwakawaka is one of our family favourite native birds. They are widespread throughout New Zealand. And they are often found flitting behind you on a nature walk through bush as they attempt to catch tiny insects that are disturbed by foot traffic. Though exceptionally friendly, they are very difficult to photograph as they move so quickly.
North Island Robin – Toutouwai
Identifiable by their long legs, the Robin is also widespread throughout New Zealand. And you’ll be sure to find one or two or maybe more along your travels on the walks on Tiritiri Matangi.
Kiwi Pukupuku – Little Spotted Kiwi
Now you can see I’ve saved the best for last. There are some 80 – 100 Little Spotted Kiwis on the island. The kiwi is nocturnal and flightless so there is little chance you will see one during the day on Tiritiri Matangi. However, if you choose to book and stay a couple of nights on the island then you are very likely to see them on a night walk.
How to Book a Visit to Tiritiri Matangi
Tiritiri Matangi has a restricted number of visitors every day, and particularly so for visitors planning to stay the night. Therefore, it is a very good idea to book your day trip well in advance. To give you an idea, we looked weeks ahead at the availability of accomodation for the DoC Bunkhouse, and couldn’t find anything.
A ferry departs from the Fullers ferry terminal in Auckland transporting a boat load of visitors and volunteers once a day. This ferry makes one stop at the North Shore and takes 90 minutes to get there.
If you are planning a day trip, then book your trip here with Get Your Guide. This is the link we chose to book with and it was super easy and straight forward. We even made a date change later with no penalty.
Alternatively, follow this link to check availability of accomodation at the DoC Bunkhouse. IF you choose to book this, then you will need to call the Fullers Ferry on +64 9 367 9111 to arrange transport back and forward between the island.
If you are planning this trip for later, then be sure to pin this post on the birds of Tiritiri Matangi to return to later. And be sure to let us know in the comments below which is your favourite New Zealand native bird?
Other posts from our New Zealand series that you might like to check out –
- Best places to visit in the North Island of New Zealand
- A local’s guide to Cathedral Cove (that stunning beach in Narnia)
- 12 awesome attractions and sights in the Coromandel Peninsula
- Day trips in and around Nelson – that won’t break the bank
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