The diverse habitats of valley flats, forest and alpine lands support a wide variety of birds. The beech forests, particularly those in the east at lower altitudes, support fantail/Piwakawaka, brown creeper/pipipi, rifleman/titipounamu, and south island robin/kakaruai. Yellow-crowned parakeet/kakariki, yellowhead/mohua and kaka are scarcer, they can be heard but are more difficult to see. A careful observer can note the new zealand falcon/karearea, usually hunting its prey of small birds, rodents and lizards around the forest edges. In summer both the shining cuckoo/pipiwharauroa and long-tailed cuckoo/koekoea may also be heard.
Kea, bold and mischievous alpine parrots, are frequently met in the alpine sections of the Routeburn Track. Rock wrens are more elusive, usually only glimpsed by those who climb to the rocky fellfields on the surrounding peaks. Pairs of noisy paradise shelduck/putakitaki are commonly encountered in the valley flats and at dusk in the forest it is usual to hear the calls of the morepork/ruru. NZ scaup/papango are commonly seen on Lake Howden.
Endemic to the south island. Pop. Less than 5000. Length 15cm, weight 30g. Feed on insects their larvae and spiders. Voice is like a loud trill similar to a canary. Usually seen in groups feeding in the tops of beech trees. Breeding season during spring and summer. Nests in hole of beech trees. Best time to see them lower down is during mid march to mid april, early morning and late afternoon feeding in the ribbonwood trees near Flats hut.
Endemic to NZ. NZ’s smallest bird. Length 7-9cm weight 6g. Feed on insects, beetles, spiders and moths. Voice a very high pitched “zit-zit”. Seen throughout the Routeburn track below the bushline.
South Island Robin/Toutouwai
Endemic to the south island. Length 18cm weight 35g. Feed on insects including stick insects and wetas, grubs, spiders and earth worms. May live up to 14 years where no predators exist. Pairs have territories of 1-5ha. Very friendly and trusting. When you see them on the track just stop and stay still. They will then come very close to you and may even sit on your shoes.
Tomtit/Ngirungiru (south island tomtit) Miromiro (north island tomtit)
Endemic to NZ. Length 13cm weight 11g. Feed on insects their larvae, spiders and earthworms. Seen throughout the Routeburn track below the bushline.
Endemic to NZ. Length 13cm weight 13g. Often seen in small groups. Feed mainly on insects, beetles, spiders and moths. Foraging from 2m above the ground up to the canopy. May hang upside down while feeding. Best time to see them is mid march to mid april early morning and late afternoon feeding in Ribbonwood trees near flats hut.
Endemic to NZ. Length 16cm weight 8g. Feed entirely on insects. Most insects are caught while flying. Voice is normally a single sharp “cheet”. The fantail hardly ever sits still, but prefers to flit from perch to perch. Being friendly they will often flit within a few metres of people.
Length 23-25cm weight 40-50g. Feeds on berries, seeds, fruit and insects. Kakariki are usually solitary or found in pairs. In Flight they make a loud chatter that sounds like “Ki-Ki-KI-Ki”. Often seen in the same vicinity as the Yellowhead. Mostly seen from Routeburn Carpark to Routeburn Flats Hut.
Endemic to south island. Nationally Endangered. Population 1000 - 5000. Length 46cm weight 1kg. Feed on seeds, foliage, fruits, insects and nectar. May also feed on carrion. Voice is a high pitched “Kee-aa” call especially when flying. Less than 40% of Kea survive their first year. Average lifespan 4 years. Though some may live to over 20 years. Oldest known captive kea was 50.
Endemic to NZ. Pop 5000 – 8000. Length 40-50cm weight 300g (male) 700g (female). Feed on large insects, lizards, rodents and smaller birds. Voice loud rapid repeat “kek-kek-kek”. Capable of flying at over 100km/hr. Well known for attacking and dive bombing intruders during the nesting season (spring and summer
Endemic to NZ. Pop less than 3000. Length 55cm weight 900g. Feed on insects and grubs taken from surface or around rocks. Caddis-fly larvae a favourite food. Voice, male repeated high pitched whistle. Female utters low rasping note. Prefer to live in fast flowing water. The female in the photos was caught in the Clinton West Branch, Fiordland. Banded and in early march 2015 released near the top of the Rock Burn. She seems to have found herself a partner and made their way over to the Route Burn North Branch by end 2015.
Endemic to NZ. Length 63-70cm weight 1.4-1.7kg. Feed on lake weeds, seed heads of grasses, insects and earthworms. Voice high pitched honk made by male when disturbed. A vocal bird when in flocks. Birds pair for life. Seen throughout the Routeburn Valley.
Endemic to NZ. Length 50cm weight 630g. Feeds on a wide variety of fruits, seeds, flowers and foliage. Voice is a subdued “goo” or “ooh”. Known for their distinctive whistling wingbeat while flying.
Introduced to NZ. Length 14.5cm weight 17.5 – 24.5g. Feed on mainly seeds, insects and fruits. Often feeds on ground. Voice is a common “Chink Chink”. Seen throughout the Routeburn track below the bushline.
Endemic to NZ. Pop numbers declining. Length18cm weight 36g. Feeds on insects and their larvae, seeds and flies. Voice is a slightly rasping “zuit” or “cheet”. They are often seen in the alpine shrublands between Falls Hut and Lake McKenzie. Hikers mistake the Pipit for the more elusive Rock Wren.
Introduced to NZ. Length 21-23cm weight 70g. Feeds on insects, grubs, earthworms, snails and some fruits. When feeding hops and runs, then remains motionless. Voice is harsher than a blackbird comprising a wide range of notes often repeated. Seen mostly in the open country at Routeburn carpark and Routeburn flats.
Introduced to NZ. Length 12cm weight 12g. The Redpoll is the smallest finch. Feeds mostly on seeds and shoots. Voice is a constant twitter during flight. Can be seen at bush edge near Routeburn Carpark.
Time to get out the magnifying glass or macro lens and take a closer look at the smaller creatures that make the Routeburn Track their home.
Not everyones favourite insect, however there is a good selection of different flies which are fascinating to look at close up.
Luckily for us the spiders love eating Flies and catching them in their webs. So next time your taking an early morning walk and walk through a web just be glad that the Spiders aren't that big.
The Common New Zealand Bumble Bee was introduced into New Zealand in the 1880's. They nest in holes in the ground. Most commonly seen around Routeburn Flats hut. (actually more likely inside the hut up against the windows) Also seen at Routeburn Roadend, where there are also Honey Bees.
The Red Admiral / Kahukura is endemic to New Zealand. With a wingspan of 50-60mm. Usually seen from October through to March.
The native New Zealand grasshopper is usually only seen below 900m. So not 100% sure what type this one is. However he/she must be lucky to still be alive, as he/she only has one back leg. These type of grasshoppers are commonly seen on hot summer days in the alpine shrubland regions of the track.