Tiritiri Matangi Island

Auckland’s best birdlife – takahe, saddlebacks and even penguins

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There are few finer places than Tiritiri Matangi Island to experience how the New Zealand’s
birdlife used to sound, and none so close to the big smoke. When botanist Joseph
Banks was accompanying James Cook around the world in the 1770s he remarked on the
dawn chorus… “their voices were certainly
the most melodious wild musick I have ever heard, almost imitating small bells
but with the most tuneable silver sound imaginable
”. You’ll be hard pressed
to hear any such thing these days. After the ravages of introduced pests –
cats, rats, stoats, possums etc – the native birdlife is barely hanging on except
for in sanctuaries such as this.

Once farming became uneconomic here in the 1970s, the sheep and
cattle were removed, almost all pests were eradicated and a group of visionaries
set about replanting the 2km-long island with seeds grown from the small
remnant forest. Over 250,000 saplings were planted and 40 years of re-growth
has paid wonderful dividends, aided by assorted avian introductions. With a
handful of the world’s 300-odd takahe strutting through the grass, little blue
penguins nesting along the shoreline and precious populations of bellbirds (korimako), saddlebacks (tieke) and stitchbirds (hihi) among the trees it is easy to
imagine what Banks once heard.

Day trips give you about 5 hours on the island, enough to
walk, admire the birdlife, picnic and even swim. There’s a small café,
excellent visitor centre and some very worthwhile ranger walks for a few

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