Greenfinches, as with the other forms of finch, were brought to NZ in the 1860s with settlers. The male birds have a strong green colour to them, whereas female birds can be harder to discern from other finches. The dine on fruit and nectar (so although pretty now, they may be a nuisance over summer when the fruit comes out in the orchard).
It is easily recognized by its long tail which opens to a fan. It has a small head and bill and has two colour forms, pied and melanistic or black. The pied birds are grey-brown with white and black bands.
We have plenty of these little fellows. They are best seen in the late afternoon, sweeping down over the water of the lake collecting small insects.
These delightful birds are usually very plump things that look like flying blobs. They love to feed on all the fruit and berries, and are likely to get to our crops before they are ripe. We shall definitely have to invest in a net to go over the entire orchard. They also love eating suet and seed from the bird feeders.
Starlings are also very common, and are terrible pests when it comes to building their nests where they are not wanted.
Above: An excellent painting of a Tui by the Artist Joan Marshall
Tui can often be heard singing their beautiful melodies long before they are spotted. If you are fortunate to glimpse one you will recognise them by their distinctive white tuft under their throat, which contrasts dramatically with the metallic blue-green sheen to their underlying black colour.
I am not sure whether I have seen a Falcon at Willowbrook - the quite common Harrier Hawk and the extremely rare NZ Falcon are at first easily confused, but there are several distinguishing features: The harrier Hawk is larger than both the male and female falcons, in fact almost twice the size of a female falcon; and when flying the Harrier Hawks tend to flap their wings, then glide in - the falcon is much faster and has constant, rapidly beating wings.
Falconry was extremely popular in the middle ages, but dates back to centuries BC. It became less important with the advent of firearms, but remains a sport the world over. There are a range of birds of prey that are used in what is loosely referred to a falconry, although technically, a falconer flies a falcon and an austringer flies an hawk.
We have at least 2 couples of pheasant. They hide in the hedgerows waiting to flap out in front of the horses and startle them...
Birds of Ill-Repute
The morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae) is New Zealand's only surviving native owl.
Often heard in the forest at dusk and throughout the night, the morepork is known for its haunting, melancholic call. Its Maori name, ruru, reflects this call. We can hear one most nights in the trees around the house.
The much larger laughing owl became extinct in the 20th century. The German or little owl is a smaller species often found on open and lightly wooded farmland. It was introduced to New Zealand between 1906 and 1910 to try to control smaller introduced birds.
This is why they are known as Moreporks...
There are a few small groups of these which flock around the field at twilight, and around the lake.
This bird is an icon in NZ. It is cheeky, inquisitive, and fierce when it is nesting. We have a couple nesting in the field at Willowbrook. Unfortunately, none of the eggs seemed to have hatched this year.
(Several couples which stay with the runner ducks around the lake)
A beautiful bird, often seen out just before it rains. There are one or two about the lake.
We are lucky enough to have a pair nesting high in the trees behind the lake. They fly over at quite a height.
There are also some birds which we have not identified yet. They fly high up into the air, then barrel-roll all the way down again, and whilst doing so they make a very loud noise. Any ideas? (they are not roller pigeons).