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Rare White Heron visits

A Kotuku – a rare Great White Heron has been frequenting the area and we have seen it several times over the past 3 weeks. It is a beautiful bird and slowly strolls along the water’s edge hunting food…

Our “NZ Birds” book has this to say:

“The white heron or great egret is a cosmopolitan bird and is found worldwide in tropical and temperate regions. Of the four or more subspecies, the range of the largest, Egretta alba modesta, is India, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The birds are venerated in most parts of their Asiatic range, the fragile white plumes which they assume and shed each breeding season have been universally prized for ornament.

Geographically and climatically New Zealand is near the extreme limits of its range. In New Zealand it is a rare bird, and probably always has been. However the species was almost exterminated to satisfy the demand for feathers for women’s hats after its only breeding site on the banks of the Waitangituna Stream at Okarito in South Westland was discovered in 1865. By 1941 there were only four nests at Okarito when it was declared a reserve and patrolled at breeding time. The numbers have now stabilised with a permanent population of around 100 to 120.

In Maori oratory, the most telling compliment is to liken someone to Kotuku. It symbolizes everything rare and beautiful. It was said that Kotuku is an inhabitant of the nether world, the spirit land of Reinga, and that an old funeral chant ends with these words to the departed: “Ko to kotuku to tapui, e Tama – e” “Kotuku is now thy sole companion, O my son!”. So seldom does Kotuku appear in any locality that “rare as the Kotuku” has passed into a proverb among Maori.”

So you can see we are fortunate indeed to have this visitor!

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