Right next door to the motor camp is the Otorohanga Kiwi House, which is one of the reasons we wanted to stay in this town. We arrived there just in time for the kiwi feeding. As kiwi are nocturnal birds, the kiwi house is lit with subdued lighting to simulate a full moon during opening hours. Found only in New Zealand, the kiwi is a unique flightless bird, with a shaggy hair-like feathers. It has no tail, tiny undeveloped wings and has nostrils at the tip of the long bill. The kiwi has powerful muscular legs, and cat like whiskers. We watched as the brown kiwi went about their business and ate their meal of ox heart and vegetables mixed into cooked rolled oats. No photos were allowed to be taken inside the kiwi house.
Leaving the nocturnal gloom behind us, we looked in at the tuatara exhibition. Known as New Zealand’s “living fossil”, they are the sole survivor of an ancient order of Rhynchocephalia reptiles common throughout the world over 200 million years ago. The colour of tuatara can vary from grey to olive green and they have a ridge of soft rubbery “spines” along their backbone. These little creatures are also unique to New Zealand and can grow up to 600mm and sit motionless for long periods of time.
The wetland area housed a large variety of bird species, many breeds of ducks, oystercatchers and even the common pukeko which is seen everywhere. We watched as a pukeko stood with its feet in the water as it fed on mussels. It picked a mussel shell up with one foot, then pulled the flesh out of the shell with its beak.
The large walk through aviary is 18m high and 45m across, and is planted as a native rain forest. Climbing to the upper walkway we kept still and soon observed the tuis, silvereyes, and fantails fluttering in and out of the tree canopy. This little brown duck was sitting on the pathway fence and was only too pleased for us to stop and say hello. We rubbed his chest and in return got our fingers nibbled. He wasn’t the least bit worried by all the attention.
The native kingfisher is a pretty little bird with beautiful iridescent colouring. One of them swooped down to the dish of food, sat back on the perch with a beak full, then obligingly passed some food over to another kingfisher who joined him in the branch. Perhaps it was its mate, or one of its youngsters.
After all this bird watching we wandered back through the fence to the motor camp. It was Pamela’s birthday, and we wished her Happy Birthday while Don poured the bubbly and Pamela served us with delicious Mud Cake.