The best of New Zealand's springtime wildlife
As the weather starts to warm up and we start to see bright greens emerge from the cold winter, we are also looking forward to plenty of exciting wildlife heading our way this spring.
If you’re considering a day tour from Auckland in spring, or are simply travelling through New Zealand between September and November, you might get a chance to see some of this fantastic seasonal wildlife!
There’s an old Maori saying that goes “ka tangi te wharauroa, ko ngā kārere ā Mahuru”. Translated, it means ‘if the shining cuckoo cries, it is the messenger of spring’. That’s because the shining cuckoo (one of two land-based species to migrate overseas each year) returns to the country in spring, and their distinctive call is one of nature’s ways of marking the change of seasons.
Wetland birds are also active through spring, where you might see species such as the bittern, fernbird and crakes around swamps and lakes. During this season, wetland birds will be feeding their young and breeding for the next season. Swans, ducks and herons are common and easy to spot around this time.
Starting in spring, you’ll also see plenty of migratory wading birds such as godwits and knots. They visit New Zealand to feast before heading back up north to breed, and there have been as many as 32 species recorded completing this pattern.
As you might expect, there are some incredible springtime sights to see with New Zealand’s mammals. The cute and fluffy lambs are easily the most recognisable, and as there are roughly 30 million sheep in the country, you should have no troubles seeing them during a drive anywhere out of the city centres. Of course, you will also see plenty of calves around the country, and even other farm animals such as alpaca, who give birth to gorgeous baby ‘cria’.
Another common springtime animal is the red deer, New Zealand’s most common deer species. It can be harder to see this animal throughout the year, but easier during spring when they venture out of forest areas and into open grasslands to feast on the new spring growth.
Springtime isn’t just magical on land, either – there are plenty of exciting things going on in New Zealand’s waters, too.
For example, spring are autumn are the best times of year to see sperm, humpback and right whales as they migrate past the country.
One of the most abundant of animals in New Zealand’s waters is actually a tiny crustacean known as ‘neocalanus tonsus’. This crustacean thrives in spring, which is important as it is a main food source for many ocean animals such as sharks and sei whales, so you might see such wildlife on a boat tour as they feed up on the plentiful pickings.
Of course, there are also plenty of wildlife watching opportunities throughout the year in New Zealand, so there really is no bad time to visit!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist