New Zealand White Heron - Kotuku

This species was almost exterminated to satisfy the demand for feathers for women’s hats. By 1941 there were only four nests at its breeding site in Okarito when it was declared a reserve and patrolled. The feathers of kotuku and huia were highly prized by Maori and were used to adorn the heads of chiefs.. These feathers were kept in carved boxes.

As the kotuku’s food consists of mainly small freshwater fish and marine fish it is usually found standing dead still in shallow water waiting to strike prey at high speed with its long neck and bill. Although small fish are its primary food source the white heron is also known to eat other small animals such as frogs, small birds, lizards, mice and insects. What moves and can be swallowed, is likely eaten.

For Maori a fine compliment is to liken someone to the kotuku. Rare and beautiful.

It was said by Maori that the kotuku is a spirit of the nether world, the spirit land Reinga. An old funeral chant ends with: “Ko to kotuku to tapui, e Tama – e” - “Kotuku is now thy sole companion...”.

White Heron or Kotuku
© Steven Reekie
White Heron or Kotuku
© nhc
White Heron or Kotuku
© Paul Knight
White Heron or Kotuku
© Paul Knight
White Heron or KotukuWhite Heron or Kotuku
© Paul Knight
White Faced Heron
© Paul Knight
White Face Heron eating. Self introduced from Australia. © Paul Knight