If you’ve never seen a kiwi before, you’re missing out. Since New Zealand developed so far away from any other land mass for 80 million years, they didn’t have many natural predators aside from birds of prey. I believe they only had three native mammals, all of which are small bat species. That means birds took on more of a mammal role, and compared to humans are largely defenseless. The kiwi is a flightless bird with no arms or wings, and a nose at the end of its long beak. It’s adorable.
The Kiwi Birdlife Park is on the way from downtown Queenstown to the Skyline Gondola, and is marked by a distinct red tunnel surrounded by plenty of signs. This is one of my favorite stops in Queenstown (I went twice), even with the lure of jet boating and paragliding just a few minutes away.
The park is a great place to walk around, and there are informative signs at every bird enclosure. However, I recommend you borrow a headset and take the self-guided tour. I read all the informative signs, borrowed a headset, saw the conservation show, and saw the kiwi feeding, yet still learned something new each time.
My favorites were the giant Wood Pidgeon (Kereru), the beautiful Yellow-Crowned Parakeet (Kakariki), and of course, the adorable flightless kiwi. I wasn’t able to get a photo of the kiwi bird because they’re nocturnal, and any flash would frighten them. You’ll just have to go see them for yourself at the park.
There were so many other birds to see around the park, from a rare flightless duck that came back from extinction, to the cheeky kea bird.
Tip: If you see any rodents, let the staff know right away. They aren’t native to New Zealand, and since the park tries to keep it a safe habitat for the birds they need to keep the rats out. I happened to see a mouse scurrying around in the kea enclosure, so I let someone know to put a trap there.
As a special treat, I also met Nigel the goat. His mom left him on the side of the road, where one of the park attendants found him and is now taking care of him. He’s only around 10 days old, and fairly young, so he imprinted on her. He also tried to hop from the shelf onto me, but he’s cute so he can get away with it.
Want to learn more? Please visit them, because the park is a family-owned business and not government funded. That means their operations and conservation efforts are supported by your entry fees, gift shop purchases, and donations.
I sponsored a native plant to be replanted, and bought a children’s book for my niece from their gift shop. I would have also loved to get a coffee, but their cafe closed at 3:30 p.m. today.
Here are a few more facts I snapped around the park.
The park is so much fun, especially if you like animals. It’s a great place to bring your kids, because they teach about native New Zealand wildlife as well as the importance of conservation. I recommend a visit to anyone visiting Queenstown; it’s fun, educational, a nice walk, and there’s so much to see.