Until a few years ago, the very survival of the North Weka was looking very bleak. It is a bird with no wings and cannot fly but is known by its inquisitive and cheeky nature, similar to the Kea. At first glance, the North Island Weka can be easily confused with a Kiwi – same colour, spindly legs and flightless. They have the 'back to front kneecap' which is quite common amongst native kiwi birds. However, if you see them chasing each other or eyeing up your lunch, you can be assured that you are looking at a Weka. Kiwi birds are nocturnal, which means that they come out of their burrows after nightfall to forage for food. On the other hand, the Weka can be seen wandering around at all times during the day.
The key visible difference between a kiwi and a North Island Weka is the beak – Kiwi birds have a long beak with nostrils at the end for their highly-developed sense of smell. The Weka on the other hand has a very short beak and are smaller on average than a Kiwi.
Weka are inquisitive and intelligent birds, they are happy to roam out and about during the day and will take anything they see that looks like fair game (anything from sandals, socks to anything shiny). Tales of Weka stealing shiny items and bags of sugar are part of New Zealand Folklore. The Weka will eat most things as they are primarily omnivorous, but enjoy eating snails, bugs and people’s lunches. They have also been known to occasional eat baby ducklings.
There is a strong relationship with the Weka and some Maori iwi, who admired their curiosity and feisty personality. Weka were used by the Maori as a source of food, perfume, oil to treat inflammation and their feathers been used in clothing.
Nowadays, the North Island Weka is classified as a vulnerable species. The main concentration of North Island Weka is at Russell in the Bay of Islands. The local community has worked closely with the Department of Conservation to make Russell a safe haven for Weka and Kiwi. This has been done by eliminating pests, keeping a tight control on cats and dogs, and planting habitat. If you are walking or driving in the Russell area, make sure to keep an eye out for a Weka running through the bush or wandering across the road.
If you want to see and meet Weka, the best place to do so is Russell - Orongo Bay Holiday Park where Weka roam freely in their natural environment. With 14 acres to rule, the North Island Weka have become a permanent fixture at this holiday park. Bird lovers and nature enthusiasts come from far and wide to see this curious and fascinating creature.
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