Primary School Science Conservation 2020 Award

Date posted: 18-Dec-2020

Dylan Lewis Y7 from Mahurangi College, Warkworth, being presented with the ..

Supporters of Tiritiri Inc and Fullers 360 Science Conservation 2020 Award

Date posted: 18-Dec-2020

The NIWA Auckland City Science and Technology Fair winner of the Supporters of Tiritiri ..

2020 Conservation Week

Date posted: 12-Aug-2020

Meet the Takahē on Tiritiri Matangi Island When: 1:30 pm, ..

AGM 2020

Date posted: 25-Jul-2020

PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DATE TO WEDNESDAY 21ST OCTOBER 2020 due to Covid restrictions at t..

Ferry Resuming July 4th!

Date posted: 01-Jun-2020

Great News!!! We have confirmation Fuller360 ferry service to Tiritiri Matangi wi..

The 2020 Photo Competition Winners

Date posted: 22-May-2020

Here are the winning and commended photos from this year's competition. Congratulations to the photo..

Celebrate the Takahe Art Competition

Date posted: 08-Apr-2020

Hi Tiri Kids, It’s TakahÄ“ Awareness Month! Everyone loves our takah..

COVID-19 Important Information

Date posted: 25-Mar-2020

The government has announced that New Zealand is now at alert level 2 for COVID-19. Th..

2019 Winner Primary School Supporters of Tiritiri and Fullers 360 Science Award is Ethan Raymond

Date posted: 11-Mar-2020

Ethan has helped the Enviro-Warriors in many ways such as planning, gard..

2019 Winner Y8-Y13 NIWA Supporters of Tiritiri and Fullers 360 Science Award is Abby Haezelwood

Date posted: 11-Mar-2020

Abby Haezelwood with her winning Science Exhibit on Plastic Beaches at the NIWA Taihoro Nuk..

Australasian Harrier

Scientific name:

 Circus approximans 

Maori Name:




Conservation status

 Native. Not threatened

Mainland status:

 Widespread and locally common


 55cm, 650g (males) 850g (females)


 Oldest recorded in NZ: 18 years


 September - December


 Carrion and live prey

The Australasian harrier, known as the swamp harrier in Australia, is a large brown raptor with long fingered wings held in a v-shape, and a long slightly rounded tail. The very dark brown juvenile has a prominent white patch on the back of the head, brown upper tail and brown eye. The adult has a distinctive pale facial disc with head and upperparts dark brown. Underparts are reddish brown streaked dark brown and underwings are barred at the tips. The light brown tail is barred dark brown and the upper tail is white. Males have a yellow eye and the females a pale yellow eye. As they become paler with age some very old males can be seen with frosty-grey upperparts, pale buff underparts and white underwings.

Harriers are usually silent except for an occasional whistle, but in the breeding season during display flights the male utters a high–pitched ‘kee-a’, to which the female responds with a ‘kee-o’.

Harriers hunt by day, either by slowly quartering the ground or by hovering and then dropping vertically to catch their prey in their sharp  talons. They eat carrion (sheep, possums, hedgehogs, waterfowl and other game birds) as well as catching live prey (mainly small mammals, especially rabbits, hares, hedgehogs, rats, mice, birds, ducks and eggs, frogs, fish, lizards and large invertebrates such as grasshoppers and crickets).

Breeding is between September and February. The bulky nest of sticks, bracken, manuka, grasses and rushes is usually sited on the ground in raupo swamps, bracken-fern, clumps of pampas or on road verges. Over a period of days 3–5 off-white eggs are laid and incubated by the female for 31–34 days. The eggs hatch over a few days, and the youngest chicks often don’t survive. Although the male gathers food for the female and chicks, only she feeds the chicks. They fledge at 43–46 days old and finally disperse about seven weeks after fledging.

It is not unusual to see harriers soaring over Tiritiri Matangi in search of prey. They have large territorial ranges and frequently visit from the mainland. They have been known to take brown teal/pateke and kokako. Harriers only take prey that is on the ground, on a pond or in a tree, so a bird’s best way of escaping a harrier’s talons is to take flight. Flocks of birds have been observed mobbing harriers as they hunt and occasionally are successful in chasing them out of an area.

Learn more about the Australasian harrier at New Zealand Birds Online.

Photography by Max McRae ©

References: Heather, B.D.; Robertson, H.A. 2000 The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Auckland, Viking. Moon, G The Reed Field Guide to New Zealand Birds.