There are four native species of heron in New Zealand. They are White herons – (kōtuku), White-faced herons, Reef herons, and Nankeen night herons.
White herons (Eastern Great Egret or kōtuku) are rare in New Zealand but common in neigbouring Australia and also in China, Japan, and India. They are mainly a coastal bird with one breeding site in New Zealand, that being Okarito Lagoon in the South Island's Westcoast region. The bird features on the New Zealand $2 coin.
Consisting of two subspecies, White-faced herons are New Zealand's most common heron. With blue-grey plumage, they are easily identified by their white face. They self-introduced in the 1940s and inhabit aquatic habitats from estuaries to damp grassland. They also occur in Australia and New Guinea.
Reef herons are dark grey with yellow to orange eyes. They are widely distributed throughout the Pacific and are mainly a coastal dweller. in New Zealand they are found in coastal areas of Northland, Coromandel, and the Marlborough Sounds.
Nankeen night herons
Nankeen night herons self-introduced in the 1990s in the Whanganui River area. They are a nocturnal species as their name suggests. They are the smallest heron in New Zealand and are red-brown in colour with a black cap.
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