Birds of Franz Josef

Franz Josef is well known for the iconic rowi or Okarito brown kiwi, but there are numerous other native bird species to be found here as well.

Franz Josef Glacier area  is a mecca for birds, with a combination of wetlands, coastal forest, farmland and alpine forest all within a short distance. As a result, numerous native bird species are to be seen here. Planting bird attracting tree species is a great way to encourage birds to linger in the backyard.

We have many self-seeded native fucshia (Fucshia excorticata) growing in our garden. One of the few native deciduous trees, fucshias prolific flowers attract bellbirds and tui early to the garden in spring. This winter we put up a sugar water feeder in a fucshia and after waiting a long time, a tui finally started feeding from it. The tui would come to the dining room window to remind us when it was empty. Now we have bird song from dawn to dusk, starting with bellbirds at first light then tui all day long.

Soon kereru will arrive to feed on the new foliage of kowhai and ribbonwood. They hang almost upside down on the slimmest of branches to get the succulent new growth, occasionally breaking the branch. Our kowhai now have an umbrella shaped form due to the attention of kereru.

When we first planted the property with native trees, all our fucshia succumbed to frost and died. However we were delighted that fucshia seed dropped by birds survived as they were protected from frost under established trees. Once they get over two metres in height they seem resilient to frost damage, so we prune away the other trees to allow them to spread out.

Other tree species that we have planted and are used by tui and bellbird are banksia and eucalyptus. These trees provide nectar even earlier in the season than fuchsia but do not flower as prolifically. The nectar feeding birds even visit a daphne bush that is in the flower in the garden. Later in the spring our flax (Phormium tenax) will flower, providing another source of nectar. Once this finished most of the birds will abandon us and head to the nearby native forest where other plants have come into flower.

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