Island Fauna

A Summary

  • The island has waders such as the threatened New Zealand dotterel, the variable oystercatcher and various gulls and terns. 
  • Tuis, fantails, native wood pigeons (kereru), paradise ducks, hawks and pukeko are commonly seen on the island.
  • There are a number of unwanted species such as cats, stoats, hedgehogs, rabbits, rats and mice that threaten the native bird life. Wallabies and possums have already been eradicated from Rangitoto and Motutapu. The remaining pests are targeted for eradication in winter 2009. 


Motutapu has a wide range of birds, both native and exotic, who either visit or reside on the island. Surveys undertaken by members of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand in 2007 and 2008 have identified 44 bird species on the island: 15 exotic species and 28 native, 6 of which are endemic (found only in New Zealand). The endemic species are New Zealand dotterel, paradise shelduck, tui, kereru, grey warbler and variable oystercatcher. Kaka (endemic) has also been sighted on Rangitoto.

  • Waders such as the threatened New Zealand dotterel and the variable oystercatcher can be seen around the shoreline along with black-backed and red-billed gulls, Caspian and white fronted terns.
  • Tuis, fantail, native wood pigeon (kereru), paradise duck, harrier hawk and pukeko are often seen on the island. The tiny grey warbler is often heard singing its heart out especially in the bushy areas of the island.
  • The most common birds on the island are pukeko, paradise duck, house sparrow, goldfinch and myna.


Two reptile surveys have taken place on Motutapu and Rangitoto prior to eradication of the remaining animal pests. Four native lizard species (copper skink, moko skink, Suter's skink and the common gecko) were found to be present along with the invasive exotic rainbow skink. Fossil records from Motutapu provide vivid evidence that the island once supported a much more diverse assemblage of reptile species than it does today. It is anticipated that there will be dramatic changes in the reptile populations once the animal pests are gone. Lizards are important in ecological communities in New Zealand and play an important role in seed dispersal and plant pollination as well as food for some bird species.

Exotic fauna

Motutapu has not escaped the introduction of exotic animal species since the Europeans arrived in the mid 1800's. Unfortunately, they have had a detrimental affect on the flora and fauna of both Motutapu and Rangitoto. Wallabies and possums were successfully removed from Rangitoto and Motutapu by the end of the 1990s. The seven remaining animal pest species are targeted for eradication in winter (June - September) 2009. The unwanted species are cats, stoats, hedgehogs, rabbits, rats (ship's and Norway) and mice that threaten the native bird life.

As Motutapu is a working farm, sheep and cattle can be seen in varying numbers on the island throughout the year.

Exotic birds such as blackbird, chaffinch, mallard duck, goldfinch, greenfinch, magpie, myna, rosella, skylark, sparrow, starling, thrush, turkey, yellow hammer have all been observed on Motutapu.


Native Birds observed on Motutapu and Rangitoto between 2007 and 2009

Common Name

Maori Name

Scientific Name

Dotterel, N.Z. dotterel


Charadrius obscurus aquilonius

Duck, grey duck


Anas superciliosa)

Duck, paradise shelduck


Tadorna variegata



Rhipidura fuliginosa placabilis

Gannet (Australasian)


Morus serrator

Gull, black backed gull


Larus dominicanus

Gull, red billed gull


Larus novaehollandiae

Harrier, Australasian


Circus approximans),

Heron, reef heron

matuku tai

Egretta sacra

Heron, white faced heron

matuku moana

Ardea novaehollandiae



Nestor meridionalis



Halcyon sancta vagans



Ninox novaeseelandiae

Oystercatcher, variable black oystercatcher

torea pango

Haematopus unicolor,

Parakeet, red-crowned parakeet


Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae)

Penguin, little Blue


Eudyptula minor

Pigeon, N.Z. pigeon


Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae

Pipit, NZ pipit


Anthus novaeseelandiae

Plover, spur-wing plover


Vanellus miles

Pukeko, swamp hen


Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus

Shag, black shag


Phalacrocorax carbo novaehollandiae

Shag, little shag

kawau paka

Phalacrocorax melanoleucos

Shag, pied shag


Phalacrocorax varius

Silvereye, white-eye, waxeye


Zosterops lateralis

Stilt, pied stilt


Himantopus himantopus

Swallow, welcome swallow


Hirundo tahitica neoxena

Tern, Caspian


Sterna caspia

Tern, white fronted tern


Sterna striata



Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae

Warbler, grey Warbler


Gerygone igata


Reptiles observed on Motutapu in 2008 and 2009 surveys

Common Name

Scientific Name

Copper skink

Cyclodina aenea

Moko skink

Oligosoma moco

Suter's skink

Oligosoma suteri

Common gecko

Hoplodactylus maculates

Rainbow skink

Lamprophilis delicata