Coastal and River Birds

The coastal and river environments of the Waimakariri District are excellent places to observe birds – some of which are very rare. The Ashley estuary is a particularly special place where as many as 115 species of bird have been recognized. One keen birder has seen 64 species in one day. Some birds live year-round in the estuary, others are migratory and come from as far afield as Alaska – for example the bar-tailed godwit. This location is very accessible – from the Waikuku Beach settlement – but care must be taken to observe the sign-posted rules regarding vehicles and dogs. Please do not disturb the birds


A sanderling is commonly seen at the Ashley estuary. This is a bird of similar size and feeding habits to a banded dotterel. Sanderlings breed in the Arctic and around 10,000 of them spend the period September to March in Australia. Only one to two birds are reported most years in New Zealand.

Black Stilt 

A black stilt (kaki) frequents the Ashley estuary. This is one of only around 130 adults in existence. From its leg bands, records show that it is a female, hatched on 12 November 2012, and released in 2013 near Tekapo.

White Heron

The white heron (kotuku) is rare in New Zealand, with a population of around 150 – 200 birds, but is much more common in Asia and Australia. One can frequently be seen at the Ashley estuary.

Sacred Kingfisher & Marsh Crake 

Another location worthy of a visit is the lower reaches of the Waimakariri River. Relatively common birds such as the sacred kingfisher (kotare) and pukeko are abundant but the rarely seen and little-known marsh crake (koitareke) is also present. This is a bird of similar appearance to a weka, but it is tiny – closer in size to a sparrow than a thrush.