Kea, Kiwi, and Pukeko, Oh My!

A miniature Galloway calf, James “holding” a pukeko, considering the map, and a carved kiwi near the entrance.

For James’ birthday we went to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. We had heard really good things about the work they do with rehabilitating birds and also breeding programs for endangered wildlife.

Now, if you’re picturing a large American-style zoo, you’re off the mark. The entire reserve covers just 18 acres and the parking lot probably only permits about 30 cars easily. But what it lacks in sheer size Willowbank Wildlife Reserve makes up for in naturalistic scenes and a lovely spring-fed stream running through the property.

And the BIRDS!

Among the animals we saw on our visit were

  • eels (Charlotte: “I thought the eels were kind of gross; they look so slimey.”)
  • pukeko (Walking through water with long, long toes and brilliant blue feathers)
  • wallaby (Mini-kangaroos!)
  • lemurs (chilling in the sun with their arms and bellies out)
  • parakeets
  • otters
  • peacocks (Evelyn persistently tried to touch a male peacock’s feathers…)
  • giant rabbits (We got to pet them. When I say giant, I really do mean giant. They are an armful.)
  • weka (flightless birds that live in the Chatham Islands)
  • black swan (Charlotte: “They are beautiful.”)
  • kea (a favorite, we stood watching a kea with a missing beak stave off other keas who wanted to eat from the same platform. Evelyn: “Kea are my favorite because they’re mischievious and clever.”)
  • morepork (which sounds like a meat-laden pizza but is actually a tiny owl native to NZ; Calvin tried to wake it up and it blinked at us a few times.)
  • and, of course, kiwi!! (on first entering the kiwi house we couldn’t see any birds. But as our eyes adjusted and we listened, we found a couple, then they got really active. A highlight: watching an adult and a juvenile snuffling around less than 2 feet away. Totally amazing.)

I’m glad that we bought a family season pass because we’ll definitely need to return again soon. For one thing, Calvin started misbehaving toward the end of our visit so he missed the last couple of enclosures (including the NZ falcon). He then proceeded to have a full-on temper tantrum, complete with shreaking and trying to remove his seatbelt, the entire way home… that was a lot of fun. But in all seriousness, we all look forward to going back another day to see the animals and enjoy the naturalistic enclosures.

The extinct giant moa. Can you imagine?!
Reading about the weka.



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