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Fiordland Wild Life
In the Fiordland Region
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Home : Visitor Guide : Fiordland Wild Life

Fiordland is home to an extensive and wide range of abundant wild life.
Visitors to Fiordland are likely to see the common forest birds like tomtits, brown creepers, grey warblers, fantails, tui, bellbirds and wood pigeons.
Fiordland is also home to several threatened native animals.

Spacer Insects
Entomologists are excited by the variety of insects found in Fiordland, even though much of the area has yet to be examined by scientists. The one insect that unwantedly draws attention to itself, everyone who visits Fiordland gets to know, and nearly all detest, is the sand-fly. Small and black it bites, especially in calm weather and near nightfall when swarms are cruelly distracting. Sandflies are two-winged insects that hatch in run-ning water. Insect repel/ant is a must and should be used unstintingly for the sand-fly bites cause swelling and itching in most people, and if precautions are not taken they may spoil your holiday.

Mosquitoes are present but are not near as widespread as sandflies. Remem-ber, though, that mosquitoes bite after dark where sandflies do not.

Bugs are prolific. All species of the native alpine cicadas are found, lowland cicadas are abundant in the valleys, and rare grey-coloured mountain cicada has been seen in the vicinity of the Homer Tunnel.

Some of New Zealand’s most remarkable insects have been found in Fiordland. Night-flying moths occur in greater num-bers than anywhere else in New Zealand, and the wet climate probably accounts for the development of some of the largest of all the species of moths, stone-flies and beetles found in the country.

Native tussock butterflies are rare in Fiordland. The jet black high-mountain butterfly flies rapidly over alpine screes whereas copper and red admiral butter-flies are found at low levels at the edges of the forest and are uncommon. Perhaps the most common of all is the blue boulder butterfly.

Insects in Fiordland are at their most active and visible from December through to early February. By New Zealand standards Fiordland is home to a considerable variety of both native and introduced birds.

Native birds are apt to be reasonably trusting. Many people are deeply touched by their songs, flight and familiarity with their environment.

Spacer Bird Life
Visitors to Fiordland are likely to see the common forest birds like tomtits, brown creepers, grey warblers, fantails, tui, bellbirds and wood pigeons.

Flightless birds:
Five kinds of flightless birds are found in Fiordland. There are three species of kiwi, the most ancient of New Zealand’s endemic birds and a link back into the realms of a time when moas roamed the country and forests covered most of the land. Kiwis are nocturnal and thus more likely to be heard than seen.

Kakapos are large, yellowish-green ground parrots. Nocturnal birds that are rarely ever seen, they are on the brink of extinction. Treat birds like the kakapo as you would treat a terminally ill patient - with respect, care and tenderness. The idea that there may still be a kakapo in the vicinity compels reflection. Scientists think the kakapo probably lost the ability to fly in some ancient time when the environment of New Zealand was free of predators.

The takahe (notornis mantell,~ is one of New Zealand’s rarest birds. As few as 120 birds remain, most of them confined to an area of about 650 km2 in the Mur-chison and Stuart mountains west of Lake Te Anau. The Wildlife Service has been working for many years on a pro-gramme intended to ensure that the takahe survives in its natural habitat where it is threatened by the presence of deer, stoats and weasels. Three stocky querulous takahe chicks were hatched in captivity at Te Anau in 1982, much to the delight of all concerned.

The brownish-coloured weka is an im-pudent bird often mistaken for a kiwi. A kleptomaniac, it will pitter off with any items of food or small personal belong-ings left unattended.

Penguins are numerous throughout the fiords. Two species predominate, especially the yellow-eyebrowed Fiord-land crested penguin.

Other native birds:
Some of the better-known and most-valued native birds are the stately large wood pigeon (a sociable bird, especially when sated from over-eating); the mischevious mountain parrot, the kea; the bush-parrot, the kaka; and the mournful native owl, the morepork.

Hawks, fantails, tits, robins, bell-birds, grey warblers and silver-eyes are all fairly common.

Water birds are also numerous near rivers, lakes and wetlands. Paradise, grey, shoveller and scaup (small and black) are some of the more common ducks. The blue duck is quite rare and favours bouldery streams in remote areas. Shags, gulls and oyster catchers are widespread.

Introduced birds:
Many introduced birds have readily taken to the Fiordland environment: sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes, chaffinches, Canada geese, swans and spur-winged plovers are just a few of the infiltrators.

It should be remembered that all birds within the Park are protected, as are native mammals, seals and bats.

Spacer Marine Life
The marine environment of Fiordland is as unique as its acclaimed landscape.
Runoff from heavy rainfall on the mountains creates a permanent freshwater layer, between 5m and 15m thick, above the sea water within the fiords. Stained by tannins washed out of the vegetation, the freshwater layer cuts down the amount of light entering the sea water, restricting almost all of the marine life to the top 40m. This band is calm, very clear and relatively warm - home to sponges, corals and fish of sub-tropical, cool water and deep water varieties.

The fiords support the world’s biggest population of black coral trees - about seven million colonies, some of them up to 200 years old. They are home also to brachiopods: clam-like animals which have been bypassed by evolution, remaining unchanged over 300 million years. Although the fiords extend as deep as 400 metres, life peters out quickly in the gloomy depths. The thin band of life extending around the shores of all 14 fiords makes up a habitat area of only 42 km.

This is less than the area of Bluff Harbour on the Southland coast. Because of the relatively small habitat area, and the limited opportunity for exchange of material across moraine sills at the entrances to the fiords, these environments are vulnerable to overfishing.

Bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, Fiordland crested penguins and little blue penguins are also resident in the fiords.

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