Kapiti, island of birds

Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island

School holidays can be trying for a large, extended and complicated family like mine, since there aren’t many activities that appeal to all members. A trip to the offshore bird sanctuary of Kapiti Island seemed like the best bet on one recent sunny day. The teenager was persuaded to give it a go by stories of the island’s past as a fortress and whaling station. The short boat trip from Paraparaumu was a promising start, and on arrival at the island we were greeted by a line-up of hospitable kererū, kākā and weka.

After an excellent introductory talk by a Department of Conservation worker named Rochelle, our large party set off for the summit, stopping part-way to admire a flock of hihi at a feeding station set up for them in the bush. Their peculiar call, which gives them their English name of stitchbird, sounded to me more like a series of squeaky hinges. When we reached the trig station at the highest point of the island and looked down at the almost sheer seaward side, there was an unexpected bonus in the form of a school of dolphins, hurdling southwards in a series of lighthearted leaps.

Not all the island’s promised attractions revealed themselves on this visit. No one heard or saw the elusive kōkako, and although we were told that a population of 14 takahē lived on the swampy flats near the shore, we saw no sign of these miraculous creatures. But one very flamboyant kākā did its best to make up for this with a bravura performance of lunch stealing just before we left.

It was an oddly humbling experience to know that we were the interlopers on this expedition. The island belonged to the birds and we were permitted to briefly intrude on them as a special concession. Even the teenager could admit that this beat going on Facebook.

4 comments have been added so far

  1. Comment made by Julia || April 19th, 2010

    Nice, I have always been meaning to go to Kapiti Island. Even the trip there would be interesting I think, and lucky that you had nice weather.

  2. Comment made by Sam O'Leary || April 19th, 2010


    Enjoyed reading this about Kapiti, amazing place. Sadly I missed out on the takahe and kokako when I was last there too. The hihi and co. made up for it though. Great info on Te Ara too.

    To see what we (DOC) are upto at Kapiti Island, you can check out this link: http://ow.ly/1A09M. It’s also home to the Kapiti marine reserve: http://ow.ly/1A0av

    Sam O’Leary
    DOC Web Team

  3. Comment made by Jennifer || April 19th, 2010

    It’s definitely one for the birds. When a group met over there to decide who would take up an inaugural Māori writer’s residency on the island, a kōmako flew into the room – given the bird’s association with eloquence in oratory this was taken as a sign. Much of the beauty of Māori literature derives from its powerful metaphorical imagery, often derived from fauna and flora.

  4. Comment made by Kerryn || April 21st, 2010

    I was lucky enough to see a Takahe the first time I went to Kapiti Island. It really did feel like something had wandered out of fantasy – its gorgeous colours, size and very unrufffled demeanour were very much outside my usual experience of birds. They were in hiding the second time I went but I do hope that when I go next, this time with my small son in tow, that they’ll come out again. Magic.

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