Introduction

Use our guide to identify common birds you might see in nature spaces, some urban areas or your own backyard.

Head out into an urban nature space or backyard and use our guide below to identify some of the most common birds you see. Take photos and record what you see. Repeat this at different times to see different birds and their range of behaviours.

You can also use DOC’s ten forest birds identification guide to practice and test your skills.

Identify ten common birds

To help you identify the birds in your garden, use our tips below to identify 10 common New Zealand birds. You can also download the guide and family activity sheet (PDF, 292K).

Use your records to get involved in citizen science by participating in the Garden Bird Survey.

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Tūī / Kōkō

Size: Medium-large, up to 30 cm

Feather colours: A few white feathers on almost-black heads, underparts, wings and tails that have a bluey-green sheen. Their upper back and sides are reddish brown with a bronze sheen.

Features: Tūī have two curled white tufts under the chin and small white feathers around the necks.

Sound:

Tūī communication calls (MP3, 2,228K) - 02:22

Read more about tūī. 

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Kererū / Kukupa / NZ wood pigeon

Size: Very large, up to 50cm long

Feather colours: The upper parts are blue-green with a purple and bronze sheen on the neck and wings. Their underparts are bright white.

Features: There’s a clear divide between the colour of the neck and white underparts.

Sound:

New Zealand pigeon/kererū/kūkū/kūkupa (MP3, 1,868K) - 01:59

Read more about kererū.

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Grey Warbler / Riroriro

Size: Tiny, about 11cm long

Feather colours: The upper parts of the bird are olive-grey, with an olive-grey face, off-white underparts and a dark grey tail.

Features: This bird has red eyes and white tips at the end of its tail which shown as a white band when flying.

Sound:

Grey warbler song (MP3, 527K) - 01:59

Read more about grey warblers.

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Bellbird / Korimako

Size: Medium, up to 20 cm

Feather colours: Males have a purple-tinted head, olive-green body and blackish wings and tail. Females are browner with a narrow white-yellow stripe across the cheek and a bluish gloss on the head.

Features: Bright red eyes and slightly forked tails.

Sound:

Bellbird/korimako adult male (MP3, 561K) - 00:35

Read more about bellbirds.

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Fantail / Pīwakawaka

Size: Small, up to 16 cm

Feather colours: Occurs in two colours: pied and black. The pied fantail has a greyish head with white markings, brown upper body and cinnamon breast with black and white bands. Black fantails are mostly all black.

Features: Fan-like tail and ‘cheet-cheet’ sounding tweet. The pied fantail has white eyebrows and while the black fantail occasionally has a white spot over each ear.

Sound:

Fantail: North Island fantail song (MP3, 230K) - 00:14

Learn more about fantails.

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Silvereye / Tauhou

Size: Tiny, up to 12cm long

Feather colours: Olive-green plumage on the head, back and tail and mid-grey on the neck and upper back. The underparts are whitish cream with pinkish sides.

Features: A clear white ring around the eye and small shot brownish-black bill.

Sound:

Silvereye/wax-eye song (MP3, 2,721K) - 02:53

Learn more about silvereyes

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Blackbird

Size: Medium-large, up to 25 cm

Feather colours: Adult males are almost entirely black and adult females are mostly dark brown with light brown or grey on the throat. Young birds are brown like adult females with light mottling.

Features: Adult males have a yellow circle around their eye and a yellow beak which darkens in winter. Females have a brown beak.

Sound:

Blackbird alarm call (MP3, 466K) - 00:29

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Starling

Size: Medium-large, up to 21 cm

Feather colours: Black all over with purplish/green sheen. Their breast and wings are dotted with white, star-like spots. Their wings are also lined with pale brown edging.

Features: Yellow beaks and red and orange feet. Females have a pale brown edge to their eyes.

Sound:

Starling - four adults communication calls (MP3, 1,225K) - 01:16

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Starling Myna

Size: Medium-large, up to 24 cm

Feather colours: Brown with black around the head, shoulders, eyes and wing tips. White-tipped tail feathers and edging on the end of the wings.

Features: Stocky build with a patch of white flashes shown by the wings during flight.

Sound:

Starling Myna chorus (MP3, 2,211K) - 02:18

Learn to identify more birds

DOC’s free bird identification course for beginners to help you master identifying ten common forest birds and their songs. It takes 5–10 minutes per bird to complete.

This interactive guide will help you learn the appearance, calls, and habitat of forest birds to identify them. The 10 birds included are bellbird/korimako, silver eye, grey warbler, tomtit, chaffinch, fantail/pīwakawaka, blackbird, tūī, rifleman and New Zealand wood pigeon/kererū.

Open the Identifying New Zealand Forest Birds course

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