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New Zealand Birdwatching Odyssey: An Unforgettable 21-Day Journey Through Breathtaking Landscapes

Embark on an unforgettable 21-day birdwatching journey from Auckland to Christchurch, where we’ll be traversing New Zealand’s diverse landscapes in search of endemic and native species. Crafted by two birding experts and good friends Mandy (Hawaii Bird Tours) and Sav (Wrybill Birding Tours), the tour aims to see members of the six endemic New Zealand families – the kiwi (aiming at four taxa, plus hearing a fifth), the New Zealand parrots (Strigopoidea, aiming at both kaka subsp. and kea), the New Zealand wrens (aiming for both of the two extant species), the New Zealand wattlebirds (aiming for all of the three extant species), the newly revised stitchbird now in its own Family, the Notiomystidae, and the New Zealand creepers, the Mohouidae (all three species).

Our Birding tour trip list generally boasts around 155+ species, with around 65 endemic breeding species and 25 – 30 tubenose species. We consistently have the highest species tallies for any New Zealand birding tour, no one else even comes close, with the record set in November 2015 (172 species)!

Starting in Auckland, you’ll explore unique bird habitats in forested areas and rugged coastlines, including Australasian gannet colonies. You’ll sail from Marsden Cove to witness seabirds like Pycroft’s petrel and the rare fairy tern near Waipu. There’s always plenty of time to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Hauraki Gulf’s pelagic trips and we’ll pay a visit to the conservation triumph, Tiritiri Matangi Island, home to endemic species. Discover the unique blue duck in Turangi and explore the managed forests near Napier. Experience the wonder of Stewart Island with its rich birdlife, and cruise through the Southern Ocean for spectacular seabird sightings. Conclude your tour with breathtaking views and rare bird encounters in the Southern Alps and the arid Mackenzie basin. This tour offers a comprehensive exploration of New Zealand’s birdlife, with comfortable accommodations and expert guidance throughout. You’ll have time to enjoy New Zealand’s culture, scenery, history, food, laughs and wine… did we mention wine?

Why Choose This Tour?

Explore the beautiful New Zealand landscape and aim to see members of the six endemic New Zealand families

See over 155+ species in total, with around 65 endemic breeding species and 25 - 30 tubenose species

Enjoy New Zealand culture, scenery, history, food, laughs and wine

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Trip Details

Trip Details


  • $8,500 double twin share
  • $1,190 single supplement

Departure dates

Nov 2-22, 2024

Departure point

Auckland, New Zealand

Ends in Christchurch, New Zealand


21 days

Group size

7 plus Mandy (your tour guide)

What to bring

  • Binoculars
  • Cameras
  • Hiking shoes
  • Rain gear
  • Lightweight hiking clothes
  • Quick dry layers

About your tour staff

Mandy Talpas of Hawaii Bird Tours and Sav Saville of Wrybill Birding Tours:

After hosting Sav in Hawaii, Mandy is thrilled to finally team up with her good friend in his side of the Pacific. Sav has been birding New Zealand since 1989 and his birding experience there is extensive after having traveled throughout the country on countless birding trips. He is a cofounder of Wrybill Birding Tours, was a contributor to Hadoram Shirahai’s “Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife,” and was also a key player in the rediscovery of the supposedly-extinct New Zealand Storm-petrel on a pelagic trip in January 2003.


Trip Itinerary

Key: B = Breakfast       L = Lunch       D = Dinner

DAY 1  L, D 

Auckland to Kerikeri (4 ½ hours driving)

We’ll pick-up you up at your accommodation in Auckland (as Auckland is a  large congested city, we suggest people stay at the Auckland Rose Park Hotel). One of our first stops may be at a forested area near to central Auckland where we will get an introduction to some of  New Zealand’s forest species, such as North Island tomtit, New Zealand pigeon, Gray Fantail, and  Gray Gerygone (Gray Warbler). Or we will head to a spot on the rugged west coast to one of New  Zealand’s three mainland Australasian gannet colonies. Here you can enjoy superb views and opportunities to snap some incredible landscape photos. We will also look for other common coastal species such as Pied Cormorant,  Red-Billed Gull, and White-fronted Tern. We will then head back across to the east coast, to several wetland areas to look for New Zealand scaup, New Zealand Grebe (Dabchick), Gray Teal, Australasian  Shoveler, Pacific Black Duck (Gray Duck), Paradise Shelduck, and other waterbirds. We will also spend time looking for Buff-banded Rail (Banded Rail) in likely mangrove habitat.

Continuing northwards we are heading for Kerikeri where we will check into our accommodation  and rest up for our post-dinner walk to look for Northern Brown Kiwi. We will certainly hear and may see Morepork as well. Then it is time for bed ahead of a busy day 2!

DAY 2 B, L, D 

Kerikeri to Waipu, Marsden Cove pelagic (3 hours driving)

This morning we will head south to a small harbor on the East Coast, called Marsden Cove. We aim to be boarding our first pelagic at around 1000, and heading out into the north-western part of the Hauraki Gulf. This pelagic is designed to specifically target Pycroft’s Petrel and Little Shearwater which breeds on nearby islands, but it also gives us our first shot at all the northern breeding seabirds. We will expect to see common  Diving-petrel, Buller’s, Flesh-footed, and Fluttering shearwaters, Fairy Prions, perhaps Gray-faced Petrel, plus Cook’s and Black petrel, and White-faced and the recently rediscovered New Zealand storm petrel (which Sav and Brent rediscovered in January 2003). This gives us our first chance to explore the northern waters, and is a quite scenic area as well with some beautiful islands and a  stunning coastline. We will stay overnight in the small coastal town of Waipu.

DAY 3 B, L, D 

Waipu to Warkworth (3 hours driving)

On the morning of day 3 we will head south to an estuary which is one of the last places to see the critically endangered Fairy Tern (currently only about 30-40 birds), as well as other shorebirds, including New Zealand Plover (NZ Dotterel), Variable Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt (Pied Stilt) and Arctic migrants such as Bar-tailed Godwit and Red Knot. Several estuarine areas further south may also be checked depending on time and whether we have been successful in finding Fairy Tern. Other areas close by can be checked for New Zealand Pipit and Australasian  Little Grebe, and we will also visit a forested coastal area for a chance to see some of our first endemic forest birds. It will be a relaxed day of birding, in a variety of habitats, before heading to our accommodation in Warkworth, where we will stay for two nights.

DAY 4 B, L, D 

Warkworth, Hauraki Gulf Pelagic (¾ hour driving)

Day 4 starts where we ended the previous day on the beautiful Hauraki Gulf, our second pelagic trip of the tour. Despite largely being in the same body of water as our first pelagic, there will almost certainly be some differences in the species seen, and having this second opportunity allows for differences in weather and sea conditions. Leaving from Sandspit we will head out towards Little Barrier Island and check out several locations nearby. The main focus of the day will be to again locate the seabirds which are most easily seen in the northern part of New Zealand, such as the New Zealand storm-petrel, as well as Black and Cook’s petrel,  Buller’s, Flesh-footed, Fluttering and Little shearwater, and White-faced storm-petrel. Depending on weather and conditions we may head out to a site where there is another Australasian gannet colony, and during late summer a roosting site for Gray Noddy (Gray Ternlet). Our eyes will not just be on the lookout for birds, as this area is also an excellent marine mammal habitat, with both common and bottle-nosed dolphins being possible, and occasionally in late summer Bryde’s whales. We end the day with another night spent at the same accommodation in Warkworth.

DAY 5 B, L, D 

Warkworth to Tiritiri Matangi Island (1 hour driving)

Get excited as today we will head to one of New Zealand’s most incredible birding locations! Tiritiri Matangi Island is truly a gem in New Zealand’s conservation crown. A short ferry ride out to the island should give us a chance to see Fluttering Shearwater,  White-fronted Tern, and possibly Parasitic Jaeger. Upon arrival, we will be met and given information about the island by Department of Conservation staff. Once farmed, the island is now an open sanctuary that has been extensively replanted, with some areas of original forest remaining. We will focus on seeing all of the endemics on the island, with North Island Saddleback,  Kokako, Stitchbird, Takahe, Brown Teal, and Red-crowned Parakeet being present. Other more common forest birds such as Whitehead, Tui, Bellbird, New Zealand Fantail, Gray Gerygone, and North  Island Robin will be seen, and we will also wait for Spotless Crake to appear at one of the small ponds.  After dinner, we will head out to look for more birds and hopefully see the Little Spotted Kiwi, as well as perhaps Tuatara, an endemic reptile related to the dinosaurs, and a Little Penguin as well.

The night will be spent in accommodation on the island, with this being limited to a communal  bunkhouse, with bunk beds in shared rooms. Although rustic the experience is well worth it, and  not to be missed. An overnight bag will be taken with minimal gear, and bedding will be provided, but due to the shared nature of the accommodations remember some nightwear.

DAY 6 B, L, D 

Tiritiri Matangi Island to Miranda (3 hours driving)

Getting up early will allow us to hear the dawn chorus, and we will leave Tiritiri Matangi mid-morning, heading south to one of New Zealand’s premier shorebird sites, the world-renowned Miranda, in the Firth of Thames. The Firth of Thames is listed under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of International significance. We will check into our accommodation near Miranda, and then head to the Miranda Shorebird Centre to get information on the latest sightings and then head out to see what’s around for ourselves. We are likely to see Wrybill, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Red-necked Stint, Ruddy Turnstone, New Zealand  Plover, Double-banded Plover (Banded Dotterel), Variable and South Island Pied Oystercatcher,  Black-winged Stilt, Black-billed Gull, and Caspian Tern.

During the summer months, there are usually a few of the less common shorebirds that visit our  shores, such as Sharp-tailed, Pectoral, Marsh, or Terek sandpiper, and we will be on the lookout for  these and other vagrants. Shorebird watching in this area is largely dependent on the tides, so we  will be working around the high tide and may visit other nearby areas if time permits. In the evening it is time to head back to our accommodation for dinner and some rest.