Bird of the Week: Poaka

An Aussie import

By Cushla McGaughey

Pied Stilts (Poaka) occur widely around the world. They established themselves here thousands of years ago. Evolved in isolation, their plumage darkened to become our unique Black Stilt. They are largely confined to the braided rivers of the South Island and are considered the world’s rarest wader.

Present-day Pied Stilts were first recorded in New Zealand in 1854, self-introduced from Australia. These elegant waders are a common sight around the Waikanae Estuary. Their high-pitched yapping as they feed or fly can also be heard at night when they fly to other feeding locations.

Nests are usually close to or surrounded by water in open areas of swamps, estuaries and damp fields. Chicks hatch covered with down. They are able to leave the nest within a few hours to start foraging for food.