With its elegant long neck, the black swan (Cygnus atratus) is New Zealand’s largest wetland bird, around 1.2 metres long and weighing 5–6 kilograms. On the water, it appears all black with a bright red bill; however, in flight the bird shows wide white wing margins.
Black Swans use the Grovetown Lagoon as a safe refuge during their annual moult as well a breeding area. In spring most years several pairs of Black Swans can be seen bringing up their families around the lagoon.
The self-introduced Black swans are partially protected, and are hunted in season according to regional limits.
The white-headed female and black-headed male paradise shelduck (Tadorna variegata) make a striking pair. They generally mate for life, feeding and flying together. Their alternating calls form a haunting two-tone cry – the male a deep ‘honk’, the female a higher ‘heek’. The bird is also nicknamed parrie, short for paradise.
Large numbers of Paradise Ducks gather on Grovetown Lagoon between December and February when they undertake their annual moult.
Shelducks are endemic (found only in New Zealand) they are partially protected, with regulated hunting permitted.
The grey teal (Anas gracilis) is a small brown-grey duck with a dark tan head.
Usually in groups, grey teal frequent shallow lakes and swamps with plenty of edge vegetation. Although more common in freshwater habitats, they also use brackish lagoons. Grey teal filter small insects and seeds from the surface. They also sieve along the muddy bottom, and eat seed heads from standing plants.
Grey teal breed in the rushes and sedges that surround the lagoon.
Grey teal are protected, but some are shot accidentally when misidentified by hunters as mallards or grey ducks.
The mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) was introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800,s and have since become the most numerous and widespread waterfowl in New Zealand. Mallard and grey ducks interbreed and hybrids are common.
The grey duck (Anas superciliosa) is a large, finely proportioned duck with tapered dark eye-lines and contrasting pale eyebrows. Both sexes have the same colouration. Grey ducks have a band of green feathers on the back of their wings while mallards and hybrids have a ban of blue feathers .
The grey duck is native to New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia and the southern Pacific. The grey duck was the most numerous duck in New Zealand before European settlement, but as introduced mallards became established the two species have interbred
Grey Duck are partially protected, and are hunted in season.
The Australasian shoveler (Anas rhynchotis) is native to New Zealand and Australia. It is named because of its long, broad scoop-shaped bill– ideal for sieving fine aquatic plants, invertebrates and seeds close to the surface of water or mud. They prefer shallow, fertile wetlands fringed with raupō like Grovetown Lagoon. The male is easily identified with its grey head and brick red sides of its body.
The New Zealand scaup (Aythya novaeseelandiae) is a little diving duck with glossy dark-brown plumage. Its huge webbed feet are the secret behind its diving prowess. Scaup’s legs are set back on the body and splayed, which makes them good divers but clumsy on land. They swim about underwater to depths of 3 metres, feeding on aquatic plants, freshwater snails and other invertebrates.
The pūkeko (Porphyrio melanotus) – also known as the swamp hen or swamp turkey – ranges beyond wetlands on to pasture and croplands. Its wide diet has allowed it to adapt to farmland and urban parks.
Pūkeko are bulky birds with long legs and long-toed feet adapted to swampy country. Pūkeko are deep purple-blue and black, with red legs and bill. They flick their tail with each step, showing the white patch underneath. The birds usually walk holding their heads up like hens, and fly with feet dangling below the body.
The kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) is iridescent blue, green, buff and white, with a disproportionately large bill. Kingfishers sit on high perches above the lagoon, calling an insistent ‘kek-kek-kek’. When their sharp eyes detect movement, they dart down to snatch the prey. Kingfishers eat a range of aquatic and terrestrial animals including – small fish, koura, earthworms, cicadas, dragonflies, lizards, mice and small birds.
The Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) is a heron-like bird that lives in shallow, densely vegetated wetlands. It hides among raupō, reeds and scrub by standing stock-still with its bill vertical, even swaying with the surrounding plants on a windy day.
The bittern is mottled brown with long legs and neck and are very hard to spot. Bittern are occasionally seen around the margins of Grovetown Lagoon.
Rare in New Zealand, with a population of just 100–120 birds, the elegant white heron or kōtuku (Egretta alba modesta) is nevertheless common in India, Japan, China and Australia. With pure white feathers, a long, slender neck, yellow bill and thin legs the white heron is easily recognised. One or two white heron are usually seen around the Grovetown Lagoon.
The New Zealand falcon or kārearea is New Zealand's only endemic falcon and the only remaining bird of prey endemic to New Zealand. Other common names for the bird are Bush Hawk and Sparrow Hawk.