Westport bird-watching guide

Tourism West Coast
May 25, 2018

Westport is the best place in the Buller to see wading birds and seabirds. Here are our top locations in Westport for bird sightings.

There is always a chance of sighting a rare or vagrant species.

Tauranga Bay

New Zealand fur seal may be the main attraction, but this is also an excellent place to go bird-watching. There's usually a group of red-billed gulls and white-fronted terns on the beach along with a few oysterchatches and NZ pipit.

Weka occur throughout the Buller. The seal colony lookout is the best place to look for seabirds; Caspian tern, black shags, blue shags, Australasian gannet, white-capped albatross, sooty shearwater, Cape petrel, Westland petrel and Arctic Skua are possible.

The Tipheads

These breakwaters at either side of the mouth of the Buller River usually have a few seabirds of interest and can be one of the best places to see the blue (spotted) shag close up. 

The eastern tiphead (closest to town) is the easist to access and perhaps offers slightly better viewing of birds at sea, wheras blue shags usually roost on the river side of the western tiphead. 

Look for Hector's dolphin, white-fronted tern, Caspian tern and Australasian gannet.

Okari Lagoon

Godwits, terns and oyster catchers may roost at the lagoon mouth sand spit on big high tides, or will be seen on islands in the lagoon. Kingfisher are usually present in the wetland either side of the causeway.

The Okari is probably the most likely place to find the endangered black-billed gull. Birds tend to move around this estuary, but roadside viewpoints should turn up some birds of interest.

Orowaiti Lagoon

This estuary east of the town supports and interesting range of shorebirds and some other wetland species. The best viewing is at low or mid-tide.

At full tide the birds will roost at the lagoon mouth or on islands. Look for paradis shelduck, grey duck, white-faced heron, white heron, royal spoonbill, little shag, black shag, South Island pied oystercatcher, pied stilt, bar-tailed godwit, white-fronted tern, Caspian tern, red billed gull and sacred kingfisher.

Westport Doman and Kawatiri River Trail

This is one of the best remaining examples of river terrace podocarp-broadleaf forest in the Buller.

Look/listen for NZ pigeon, tui, bellbird, grey warbler, shining cuckoo, fantail, silvereye in the forest.

The walk or cycle from the Domain to the eastern tip is talkes you through a variety of habitats; from bush to riverside through the harbour basin and lost lagoon and on to the tiphead.

Look for shags along the river and black swan around the harbour basin. The boardwalk offers opportunity to see/hear kotuku, pied stilts, welcome swallows, fernbird and if you're lucky, marsh crake (especially early in the morning).

Common birds regularly sighted are:

  • Mallard,
  • Australasian harrier.
  • Spur-winged plover.
  • Australian magpie.
  • Skylark.
  • NZ pipit.
  • House sparrow.
  • Chaffinch.
  • Greenfinch.
  • Goldfinch.
  • Redpoll.
  • Yellowhammer.
  • Blackbird.
  • Song thrush.
  • Common Starling.
  • Canadian Goose.