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White herons or kotuku are one of the most beautiful and elegant birds in out avifauna. This sadly contributed to their decline here when their nuptial feathers became a prized fashion product and bids were harvested. Numbers have been increasing since the nest site at Okarito was protected & this traffic ended. In fact, the reserve has a rich range of birdlife, so should be on any naturalists 'must see' places in New Zealand.

The tour company that runs the trips out to the nesting site is very good. The hides are spacious enough for everyone to get a good view of the nesting site. For photographers, you'll be wanting lenses with focal lengths of 400-500mm at a minimum though to get good shots.

Children are likely to appreciate the jet-boat trip into the lagoon area itself.

For the faint of heart though, the breeding of the kotuku is a grim affair. The kotuku have more chicks than they're prepared to feed, so the young birds are locked in a grim struggle for food. Any chick that is unable to compete with its siblings will starve to death. The parent exhibits no concern for the fate of its starving offspring.

This shot shows the difference in size of the two chicks


In this lunge, the smaller chick tried to prompt the parent to feed it. The beak grabbing is the usual trigger for being fed. It didn't succeed.


This shot shows how little weight the smaller chick is accumulating


And in this shot, it has turned its attention to its sibling and made a grab for its beak to try to get food