NZ Birds of Prey
What is a bird of prey? what is a raptor?
A bird of prey is a bird that hunts for its food. Many other birds are predatory but the term ‘bird of prey’ only refers to those that catch their prey with their feet and have a hooked bill suitable for subduing prey and tearing flesh into edible chunks. The only exceptions are those that only feed on carrion (e.g. vultures). Not needing to grapple their prey, those that solely feed on carrion only have the strongly hooked bill suitable for tearing flesh.
So what is a raptor!?
A raptor is simply another name for a bird of prey. The term raptor comes from the Latin word rapere, meaning to seize or take by force.
New Zealand Native birds of prey
There are four species of raptors that are native to New Zealand. Native meaning: that they naturally occur and breed in New Zealand (opposed to being deliberately or accidentally introduced).
Each of these species fulfils a unique role in our ecosystem making them vital to the maintenance of a healthy New Zealand environment.
The New Zealand Falcon specialises in chasing live prey.
The Swamp Harrier is usually seen slowly quartering the landscape for food.
The Morepork Owl feeds largely on insects within forested landscapes.
The Barn Owl occurs in open farmland habitat.
What’s faster than a V8 Supercar and rarer than Kiwi? A bird that is only found in New Zealand that’s what - the spectacular yet threatened ‘Karearea’ New Zealand Falcon! But the falcon is not our only bird of prey. Follow the links to find out more about all of the magnificent birds of prey that occur in New Zealand.
NZ Introduced & Vagrant birds of prey
The little owl is the only bird of prey deliberately introduced by humans into New Zealand.
As well as the birds of prey that breed here, New Zealand is also visited by vagrant birds of prey from overseas. These reach New Zealand naturally, but because of the low and dispersed nature in which they arrive have not yet established breeding populations in this country. Although tantalising sightings of large eagles have been made, to date only the nankeen kestrel, black kite and black falcon have been confirmed as true vagrants. This natural process of dispersal and colonisation means that the story of New Zealand’s birds of prey is ever unfolding as new animals naturally reach our shores.
New Zealand Extinct birds of prey
New Zealand used to be home to some of the most magnificent birds of prey in the world, including the largest eagle and the largest harrier ever to have existed. They were found nowhere else in the world. These birds were unable to survive the changes brought about by the arrival of humans and are now extinct. Their loss acts as a reminder of the fragility of our natural world and that the actions of humans can have a dramatic effect on the birds we share our environment with. Wingspan aims to ensure that the birds of prey that are left in New Zealand do not suffer the same fate.
NZ birds of prey - Taxonomic Families
New Zealand birds of prey are included in the following taxonomic families:
Falconidae: NZ Falcon
Strigidae: Morepork Owl
Tytonidae: Barn Owl
Accipitridae: Swamp Harrier, Kites (NZ vagrant raptor)