Tiritiri Matangi – Birding Paradise

Back in December 2013 I was told of an island just off the coast of Auckland that I just had to visit as a birding enthusiast. The island is Tiritiri Matangi which in Maori means “Tossed by the wind” but to the locals it’s just Tiri.

Back in December 2013 I was told of an island just off the coast of Auckland that I just had to visit as a birding enthusiast. The island is Tiritiri Matangi which in Maori means “Tossed by the wind” but to the locals it’s just Tiri.

After a quick google search I found everything I needed, the Tiri Kat Ferry leaves Auckland and Gulf Harbour which costs around $50 – $70 return and operates 5 days a week. Accommodation is very limited and books up quickly, there is a great little bunkhouse which can house about 15 visitors in total in 3 separate rooms at a cost of $30.00 each per night. The bunkhouse is also shared with the volunteers, they are usually full of knowledge so make sure you’re nice to them and they might give you hints and tips on where to find wildlife.

Tiritiri Matangi Front Lawn

Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse with Rangers quarters in the centre and the bunk house is to the right.

I definitely recommend staying overnight at the bunkhouse if you can. The day trips don’t allow you to experience everything the island has to offer, spotlighting at night for Tuatara and Kiwi and early mornings for the best bird watching were highlights of the trip. There are hot showers, fridge, freezer and a fully self-contained kitchen so all you need to bring is food, bedding (Sheet, sleeping bag and pillowcase) and your camera of course.

Link for ferry booking – http://www.360discovery.co.nz/timetables-fares/tiritiri-matangi-island-timetable.php

Link for accommodation booking – http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-visit/auckland/hauraki-gulf-islands/tiritiri-matangi-scientific-reserve-open-sanctuary/

There are strict bio-security guidelines you have to follow when packing your gear as this is a pest free island and they want it to stay that way. Please check all your bags for pests and check shoes for dirt and seeds, make sure everything is in sealed bags or eskies.

We arrived at the ferry terminal brimming with excitement! The boat was full which was a little disappointing as I was expecting a nice tranquil experience, after realising they were mostly day trippers and leaving at 3.30pm I was a lot happier.


After a short 20 minute ferry trip from Gulf Harbour we arrived on the island, we had a briefing with the ranger before heading up the the bunkhouse. This island is amazing, there were birds everywhere, we saw Whiteheads, Red-crowned Parakeets, White fronted Terns and even Saddlebacks within the first 30 minutes of arriving.

The island it covered in beautiful native bush that has all been hand planted by volunteers since the 1984 as it was previously farmland. There are lots of walking tracks for you to explore so spending two days here was a great amount of time to take it all in.

Here is a map of the island:

Map of Tiritiri Matangi island

The birding here is AMAZING! The species on the island include Bellbirds, Stitchbirds, Rifleman, Grey Warbler, Fernbird, Whitehead, Saddleback, Tui, New Zealand Robin, Spotless Crake, Brown Teal, Red-crowned Parakeet, Takahe, New Zealand Wood Pigeon and the much sought after Kokako.


At night there are Little Blue Penguin which can be seen around the Hobbs Beach area, they roost on the island at night. Tuatara are also found in this area, a good place to see them is under the large Pohutukawa Tree up the hill from the Hobbs Beach long-drop and also the first 500m of the lower Kawerau Track. Also at night you can spot the Little Spotted Kiwi, we saw 3 but sadly they were too skittish to stick around for a photo. You will hear them scratching around in the undergrowth before you see them, try the Wharf Road and Wattle Track as this is where we saw them. We were told that they can be found everywhere, there are about 90 individuals in total on the island.


The star of the island for me is the Kokako. With only about 800 left in the world, Tiri is such an important place for the conservation of this species; with around 30 individuals on the island including about 12 breeding pairs. They can be very hard to find but I meet 4 individuals, I was lucky enough to have a very close encounter with one of the Males named Te Koha Waiata (TKW for short).

Kokako (Profile)

The best places I found to see the Kokako were the top of the Kawerau Track and along the Wattle Track. There are 2 separate pairs on the Wattle Track; one about 500m in from the top and the other around the water trough with the oval seat. I found getting to the oval seat at 6.30am and sitting quietly you should hear them start singing their majestic song, from there you should be able too locate him. Another thing which is handy to know is their favourite food is the local five finger tree so keep your eyes pealed when you find one of these trees.

Another great iconic New Zealand bird which is also very rare on the mainland and is the very beautiful North Island Saddleback. There are around 300 – 400 on the island and are very easy to locate but getting a photo of one was a different story! The conservation efforts on the island have meant you can see this amazing bird in great numbers all over the island, once you formularise yourself with their iconic call you will see them everywhere.


The Brown Teal can be found in the pond below the lighthouse or at the two little lakes at the north end of the island, the Spotless Crakes are also found here.

Brown Teal (Profile)

I would highly recommend Tiritiri Matangi Island to anyone visiting New Zealand, it was one of the best experiences I have had in this beautiful country. Make sure you don’t just do a day trip, at least stay one night for the full experience!

I big thank you to all the volunteers plus Department of Conservation Rangers for making this island a sanctuary for vulnerable and endangered New Zealand wildlife. If it wasn’t for Tiri us common folk would never be able to experience these very special animals in the wild! Cheers!


My wife Lauren on the left, Me (Laurie Ross) in the centre and on the right is Chris (Lauren’s dad)

My New Zealand gallery has all the photos from my Tiritiri Matangi trip so check them out here at www.laurieross.com.au/wildlifeofnewzealand

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