Royalty visits Lake Hayes

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By PHILIP CHANDLER

WHETHER related to the Covid-19-imposed human lockdown or not, a rare waterbird’s turned up in Queenstown.

Local Jane Taylor spotted a distinctive royal spoonbird (kotuku ngutupapa) on the wetlands at the south end of Lake Hayes last Sunday, photographing it a requisite two metres away.

“Anyone walking the track should keep an eye out, as they really are magnificent birds,” she says.

The heavyish, long-legged bird has white plumage and a long black bill that ends in a spoon shape.

It’s distinctive also for the way it sweeps its bill in an arc in search of prey.

Department of Conservation classifies it as “naturally uncommon” – at last count, in 2012, there were only 2360 in New Zealand.

It’s the only spoonbill species, from six worldwide, that breeds in NZ.

Royal spoonbills originally visited from Australia in 1861, making it a ‘native’ bird, but the first NZ colony – in Okarito, in south Westland – wasn’t spotted till 1949.

Taylor says the bird she saw “did not seem at all concerned about the presence of people, Covid-19-free or otherwise”.

She adds: “Connecting with nature is a great way to help get through this crisis, as long as it can be done safely and close to home.”

According to a social media post, a royal spoonbill – whether this Lake Hayes visitor or another one – was also spotted recently at the Shotover Delta.

scoop@scene.co.nz