New Zealand falcon

The New Zealand falcon or kārearea in Māori (Falco novaeseelandiae) is New Zealand's only falcon. Other common names for the bird are bush hawk and sparrow hawk. It is frequently mistaken for the larger and more common swamp harrier. It is the country’s most threatened bird of prey, with only around 3000–5000 breeding pairs remaining.[2][3]

New Zealand falcon from Buller's Birds of New Zealand, 1888
New Zealand falcon
NZ Falcon - Karearea 02
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae
Subfamily: Falconinae
Genus: Falco
Linnaeus, 1758
F. novaeseelandiae
Binomial name
Falco novaeseelandiae
Gmelin, 1788


Ornithologists variously described the New Zealand falcon as an aberrant hobby or as allied to three South American species (F. deiroleucus, F. rufigularis, and F. femoralis); however molecular phylogenetic studies show that it is most closely related to the South American Aplomado falcon[4] Two forms are apparent from their significantly different sizes with the larger race in the South Island and the smaller in the North Island. Although neutral genetic markers show a recent history of these two forms, the substantial size difference is likely to be driven by ecological adaptation. Conservation management had already avoided mixing of the North Island (Falco novaeseelandiae ferox) and South Island (Falco novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae) populations.[5]


With a wingspan between 63 cm (25 in) and 98 cm (39 in)[2] and weight rarely exceeding 450 g (16 oz), the New Zealand falcon is slightly over half the size of the swamp harrier, which it usually attacks on sight. The male is about two-thirds the weight of the female.[6]

It differs from the much larger swamp harrier or kāhu, common throughout New Zealand, in that it catches other birds on the wing and seldom eats carrion.

Distribution and habitat

The New Zealand falcon is mainly found in heavy bush and the steep high country in the South Island, and is rarely seen north of a line through the central area of the North Island. A small population also breeds on the Auckland Islands; the species is known from the Chatham Islands from fossil remains.


An aggressive bird that displays great violence when defending its territory, the New Zealand falcon has been reported to attack dogs, as well as people.


Falco novaeseelandiae (AM LB836)
Falco novaeseelandiae egg in the collection of Auckland Museum

The New Zealand falcon nests in a scrape in grassy soil or humus in various locations: under a rock on a steep slope or on a rock ledge, among epiphytic plants on a tree branch, or under a log or branch on the ground,[7][8] making the two or three eggs that they lay vulnerable to predators such as stray cats, stoats, weasels, possums, and wild dogs.

Relationship with humans

Although protected since 1970, the kārearea is a threatened species, with fewer than 8000 birds remaining. They continue to be persecuted by farmers and pigeon-owners: up to three-quarters of falcons die in their first year, mostly as a result of human actions.[9]

Falcons for Grapes programme

In 2005, funding was given by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry towards a programme that uses the falcons to control birds that damage grapes and act as pests in vineyards as well as monitoring the birds and establishing a breeding population in the vicinity of the Marlborough wine region.[10] Initially, four falcons were relocated to the vineyards from the surrounding hills. After the release of a further 15 birds breeding began to occur – the first time it is thought to have happened since land clearance 150 years ago.

Electrocution Threat

A major ongoing threat to the birds is electrocution.[11][12] Both a five-year radio tracking study [13] of released birds in Marlborough and an observational study in Glenorchy[14] have attributed nearly half of the bird deaths to electrocution on 11,000 volt distribution transformers and structures.

20160625 NZ DOC Glenorchy Electrocution
Electrocuted New Zealand falcon found at Glenorchy

Cultural references

The New Zealand falcon features on the reverse of the New Zealand $20 note and has twice been used on New Zealand stamps. It was also featured on a collectable $5 coin in 2006.[15]

The Royal New Zealand Air Force's aerobatic team is called the Black Falcons.[16]

The proverb "Me te kopae kārearea" or "like the nest of kārearea" means 'rarely seen.' [17]

NZ Falcon - Karearea 08
New Zealand falcon shown in various phases of flight


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Falco novaeseelandiae". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Douglas, Barea, Waite, Hankin - How Good Design Can Protect the kārearea (New Zealand Falcon) and Improve Network Safety" (PDF). 20 June 2017.
  3. ^ "New Zealand falcon/kārearea - Department of Conservation". 26 June 2017.
  4. ^ Fuchs, J., Johnson, J.A. & Mindell, D.P. 2015. Rapid diversification of falcons (Aves: Falconidae) due to expansion of open habitats in the Late Miocene. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 82: 166–182.
  5. ^ Trewick SA, Olley L. 2016. Spatial size dimorphism in New Zealand’s last endemic raptor, the Kārearea Falco novaeseelandiae, coincides with a narrow sea strait. IBIS 158: 747–761
  6. ^ Heather, Barrier; Robertson, Hugh (2005). The Field Guide of the Birds of New Zealand (Revised ed.). North Shore, New Zealand: Penguin Books. pp. 277–278. ISBN 978-0-14-302040-0.
  7. ^ Marchant, S.; Higgins, P.J., eds. (1993). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 2: Raptors to Lapwings. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 287. ISBN 0-19-553069-1.
  8. ^ Robertson, C.J.R., ed. (1985). Reader's Digest Complete Book of New Zealand Birds. Surry Hills, NSW: Reader's Digest. pp. 154–155. ISBN 0-949819-97-2.
  9. ^ Yarwood, Vaughan (July–August 2018). "The hunters". New Zealand Geographic. 152: 104–105.
  10. ^ "SFF Project Summary". Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  11. ^ "Falcons Return to Wairau Plain". Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (press release). 13 December 2007. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  12. ^ "Protection sought for vineyard falcons". Radio New Zealand. 2010-02-25. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  13. ^ Fox; Wynn (2010). "The impact of electrocution on the New Zealand falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae)". Notornis. 57 (2): 71–74.
  14. ^ Waite, Ed (2017). "Causes of mortality for kārearea / New Zealand falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae) in the Whakatipu district". Notornis. 64: 21–23.
  15. ^ 2006 New Zealand Falcon coin sets Archived 13 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine.. Accessed 6 April 2006.
  16. ^ "New air force planes 'a huge step up'".
  17. ^ Murdoch, Riley (2001). Maori Bird Lore. Viking Sevenseas NZ. p. 72. ISBN 0854671005.

Further reading

  • Crichton, Sandy (May 2009), "On a wing and a prayer", Forest & Bird, pp. 21–25

External links

Auckland Islands

The Auckland Islands (Māori: Motu Maha or Maungahuka) are an archipelago of New Zealand, lying 465 kilometres (290 mi) south of the South Island. The main Auckland Island, occupying 510 km2 (200 sq mi), is surrounded by smaller Adams Island, Enderby Island, Disappointment Island, Ewing Island, Rose Island, Dundas Island, and Green Island, with a combined area of 625 km2 (240 sq mi). The islands have no permanent human inhabitants.

The islands are listed with the New Zealand Outlying Islands. The islands are an immediate part of New Zealand, but not part of any region or district, but instead Area Outside Territorial Authority, like all the other outlying islands except the Solander Islands.

Ecologically, the Auckland Islands form part of the Antipodes Subantarctic Islands tundra ecoregion. Along with other New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands, they were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.

Banknotes of the New Zealand dollar

This article concerns the banknotes of the New Zealand dollar

Benmore Peak

Benmore Peak is the highest point of the Benmore Range, an island range located in the southern half of the Mackenzie Basin, South Island, New Zealand.

The 28 km (17½ mile) by 16 km (9.9 mi) Benmore Range is aligned approximately north–south and situated between the small town of Twizel at the northern end and the village of Omarama at the south-western end. The Benmore Range is bordered by Lake Benmore to the south and the Haldon Arm of Lake Benmore to the east.

There are more than thirty surveyed peaks above 1,000 m (3,280 ft), with at least twelve of these above 1,500 m (4,920 ft), although only five have official names.

Benmore Peak (1,932 m / 6,338 ft) is near the centre of the range, with Sutherlands Peak (1,846 m / 6,054 ft) and The Cairn (1,464 m / 4,801 ft) to the north and Totara Peak (1,822 m / 5,977 ft) to the south. The Buscot (1,245 m / 4,084 ft) is an attached subpeak on the western side of the main range.

The range mostly consists of greywacke and some schist. Flora includes slim snow tussock (Chionochloa macra) and narrow-leaved snow tussock (Chionochloa rigida) as well as an array of alpine herbs, while fauna include the New Zealand falcon/kārearea, sky lark, chukar, California quail and the New Zealand pipit/pihoihoi, as well as the common skink and common gecko.

Although it is almost entirely New Zealand Crown land and a protected Outstanding Landscape Area, several large farm stations have legally run stock on the Benmore Range for more than a century, including Ben Omar, Benmore, Buscot, Glenbrook, Glencairn, Peak Valley and Totara Peak.

The NZ Department of Conservation acquired 12 km2 (1,200 hectares / 2,965 acres) of land between The Cairn and Sutherlands Peak from Glenbrook Station and it has been officially designated a public Conservation Area. It incorporates an area of wetlands as well as much drier elevated areas. A public walking track is accessible via an easement across Glenbrook Station.

Biodiversity of New Zealand

The biodiversity of New Zealand, a large island nation located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, is varied and distinctive accumulated over many millions of years as lineages evolved in the local circumstances. New Zealand's pre-human biodiversity exhibited high levels of species endemism, but has experienced episodes of biological turnover. Global extinction approximately 65 Ma ago resulted in the loss of fauna such as dinosaurs, pterosaurs and marine reptiles e.g. mosasaurs, elasmosaurs and plesiosaurs. The ancient fauna is not well known, but at least one species of terrestrial mammal existed in New Zealand around 19 Ma ago. For at least several Ma before the arrival of human and commensal species, the islands had no terrestrial mammals except for bats and seals, the main component of the terrestrial fauna being insects and birds. Recently—since c. 1300 CE—a component has been introduced by humans, including many terrestrial mammals.

New Zealand has developed a national Biodiversity Action Plan to address conservation of considerable numbers of threatened flora and fauna within New Zealand.

Brown teal

The brown teal (Anas chlorotis) is a species of dabbling duck of the genus Anas native to New Zealand. The Māori name for it is pāteke. For many years it had been considered to be conspecific with the flightless Auckland and Campbell teals in Anas aucklandica; the name "brown teal" has also been largely applied to that entire taxon. Common in the early years of European colonisation, the "brown duck" (as it had been often referred to) was heavily harvested as a food source. Its numbers quickly fell, especially in the South Island, and in 1921 they became fully protected. Captive breeding and releasing into predator-controlled areas has seen good localised populations re-introduced around the country in recent years.

Chatham kaka

The Chatham kaka or Chatham Island kaka (Nestor chathamensis) is an extinct parrot species previously found on the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. The first individuals were thought to belong to the kaka (Nestor meridionalis), but detailed examination of the subfossil bones showed that they actually belong to a separate endemic species. The species became extinct within the first 150 years of the arrival of the Polynesians around 1550, long before any European settlers. No skins or descriptions are available.


Falcons () are birds of prey in the genus Falco, which includes about 40 species. Falcons are widely distributed on all continents of the world except Antarctica, though closely related raptors did occur there in the Eocene.Adult falcons have thin, tapered wings, which enable them to fly at high speed and change direction rapidly. Fledgling falcons, in their first year of flying, have longer flight feathers, which make their configuration more like that of a general-purpose bird such as a broad-wing. This makes flying easier while learning the exceptional skills required to be effective hunters as adults. There are many different types of falcon.

The falcons are the largest genus in the Falconinae subfamily of Falconidae, which itself also includes another subfamily comprising caracaras and a few other species. All these birds kill with their beaks, using a "tooth" on the side of their beaks—unlike the hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey in the Accipitridae, which use their feet.

The largest falcon is the gyrfalcon at up to 65 cm in length. The smallest falcons are the kestrels, of which the Seychelles kestrel measures just 25 cm. As with hawks and owls, falcons exhibit sexual dimorphism, with the females typically larger than the males, thus allowing a wider range of prey species.Some small falcons with long, narrow wings are called "hobbies" and some which hover while hunting are called "kestrels".As is the case with many birds of prey, falcons have exceptional powers of vision; the visual acuity of one species has been measured at 2.6 times that of a normal human. Peregrine falcons have been recorded diving at speeds of 200 miles per hour (320 km/h), making them the fastest-moving creatures on Earth. The fastest recorded dive for one is 390 km/h.

Hobby (bird)

A hobby is a fairly small, very swift falcon with long, narrow wings. There are four birds called "hobby", and some others which, although termed "falcon", are very similar. All specialise in being superb aerialists. Although they take prey on the ground if the opportunity presents itself, most prey is caught on the wing; insects are often caught by hawking, and many different birds are caught in flight, where even the quick maneuvering swifts and swallows cannot escape a hobby.

The typical hobbies are traditionally considered a subgenus, Hypotriorchis, due to their similar morphology; they have ample amounts of dark slaty grey in their plumage; the malar area is black; and the underside usually has lengthwise black streaks. The tails are all-dark or have only slight bands.Monophyly of Hypotriorchis is supported by DNA sequence data, though the exact limits of the group are still uncertain. The hobbies seem to be one of the Falco lineages which emerged around the Miocene-Pliocene boundary some 8-5 million years ago and subsequently radiated - in this case throughout the Old World. Their relationship to the peregrine falcon group and the kestrels is not well resolved, however; taxa such as the red-footed falcon appear in some respects intermediate between the kestrels and the typical hobbies.

Eurasian hobby (F. subbuteo), also known as the northern hobby

African hobby (F. cuvierii)

Oriental hobby (F. severus)

Australian hobby or little falcon (F. longipennis), uncommon but widespread in Australia, during the southern winter, some birds migrate to the north of the continent or to the islands of Southeast Asia

Sooty falcon (F. concolor) of the North African desert

Eleonora's falcon (F. eleonorae) occupies the Mediterranean area during the northern summer, and migrates south to Madagascar for the southern summer.These species are tentatively placed here:

New Zealand falcon or kārearea (F. novaeseelandiae).

Brown falcon (F. berigora)

Taita falcon (F. fasciinucha)


Kakepuku (Kakipuku-o-kahurere) rises from the plain between the Waipa and Puniu rivers, 8 km (5 mi) SW of Te Awamutu in the Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island.

List of endemic birds of New Zealand

Many of New Zealand's birds are endemic to the country, that is, they are not found in any other country. Endemic species differ from native or indigenous species in that native or indigenous species have generally and historically, migrated to a region or country and become established over a long period of time, whereas endemic species, have only ever inhabited the region or country where they were first discovered. Approximately 71% of the bird species breeding in New Zealand before humans arrived are widely accepted as being endemic.Population status symbols are those of the Red List published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The symbols and their meanings, in increasing order of peril, are:

LC = least concern

NT = near threatened

VU = vulnerable

EN = endangered

CR = critically endangered

EX = extinct

Maungatautari Restoration Project

The Maungatautari Restoration Project is the largest ecological restoration project in New Zealand, located near Cambridge in the Waikato region in the central North Island of New Zealand.

The project is engineered to remove all non-native pest mammals and predators and restore endangered native flora and fauna to Maungatautari. There is no intention to restrict all introduced birds, but efforts will be made to control exotic wasps.

It includes private land and a government-owned scenic reserve administered by Waipa District Council. It is a community project under the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust.

Moutohora Island

Moutohora Island or Whale Island (Moutohorā in Māori) is a small uninhabited island located off the Bay of Plenty coast of New Zealand's North Island, about 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) north of the town of Whakatane. The 1.43 km2 (0.55 sq mi) island is a remnant of a complex volcano which has eroded, leaving two peaks. This is still an area of volcanic activity and there are hot springs on the island in Sulphur Valley, McEwans Bay, and Sulphur Bay.

Nelson Coast temperate forest

The Nelson Coast temperate forests are an ecoregion in New Zealand.

New Zealand dollar

The New Zealand dollar (sign: $; code: NZD, also abbreviated NZ$) (Māori: Tāra o Aotearoa) is the official currency and legal tender of New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue, the Ross Dependency, Tokelau, and a British territory, the Pitcairn Islands. Within New Zealand, it is almost always abbreviated with the dollar sign ($), with "NZ$" sometimes used to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. In the context of currency trading, it is often informally called the "Kiwi" or "Kiwi dollar", since New Zealand is commonly associated with the indigenous bird and the one-dollar coin depicts a kiwi.

Introduced in 1967, the dollar is subdivided into 100 cents. Altogether there are ten denominations—five coins and five banknotes—with the smallest being the 10-cent coin. Formerly there were lower denominations, but those were discontinued due to inflation and production costs.

The New Zealand dollar is consistently one of the 10 most traded currencies in the world, being approximately 2.0% of global foreign exchange market daily turnover in 2013.

New Zealand parrot

The New Zealand parrot superfamily, Strigopoidea, consists of three genera of parrots – Nestor, Strigops, and the fossil Nelepsittacus. The genus Nestor consists of the kea, kaka, Norfolk Island kaka and Chatham Island kaka, while the genus Strigops contains the iconic kakapo. All extant species are endemic to New Zealand. The species of the genus Nelepsittacus were endemics of the main islands, while the two extinct species of the genus Nestor were found at the nearby oceanic islands such as Chatham Island of New Zealand, and Norfolk Island and adjacent Phillip Island.

The Norfolk kaka and the Chatham kaka have become extinct in recent times, while the species of the genus Nelepsittacus have been extinct for 16 million years. All extant species, the kakapo, kea, and the two subspecies of the kaka, are threatened. Human activity caused the two extinctions and the decline of the other three species. Settlers introduced invasive species, such as pigs and possums, which eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds, and additional declines have been caused by hunting for food, killing as agricultural pests, habitat loss, and introduced wasps.The superfamily diverged from the other parrots around 82 million years ago when New Zealand broke off from Gondwana, while the ancestors of the genera Nestor and Strigops diverged from each other between 60 and 80 million years ago.

Plucking post

A plucking post is a raised structure such as a tree stump which is used regularly by a bird of prey to dismember its prey, removing feathers and various other inedible parts before eating it.

Shore plover

The shore plover (Thinornis novaeseelandiae), also known as the shore dotterel or by its Māori name of tuturuatu, is a small plover endemic to New Zealand. Once found all around the New Zealand coast, it is now restricted to a few offshore islands. It is one of the world's rarest shorebirds: the population is roughly 200.

Swamp harrier

The swamp harrier (Circus approximans), also known as the Australasian marsh harrier, Australasian harrier, kāhu, swamp-hawk or New Zealand hawk, is a large, slim bird of prey widely distributed across Australasia. It is one of the few birds to have benefited from European settlement of New Zealand: It is a bird of open country and became firmly established in New Zealand after forests were cleared by Polynesians.The swamp harrier belongs to the sub-family Circinae and genus Circus, which are represented worldwide, except Antarctica. The sub-family and genus are derived from the characteristic behavior of circling flight during courtship and hawking.

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand, located in the central North Island. It has been acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of mixed cultural and natural values.

Tongariro National Park was the fourth national park established in the world. The active volcanic mountains Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro are located in the centre of the park.There are a number of Māori religious sites within the park, and many of the park's summits, including Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, are tapu, or sacred. The park includes many towns around its boundary including Ohakune, Waiouru, Horopito, Pokaka, Erua, National Park Village, Whakapapa skifield and Turangi.

The Tongariro National Park is home to the famed Tongariro Alpine Crossing, widely regarded as one of the world's best one-day hikes.

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