The fernbird (Bowdleria punctata) is a small brown bird with an intricate pattern of dark flecks and a beautiful long lacy tail. On the North and South islands, fernbirds inhabit dense thickets of scrub, usually close to or within wetlands. They may have been more common in forests and shrubland in the past.
Well camouflaged and very secretive, fernbirds are more easily heard than seen. Their calls are varied – the most common sounds like ‘oo-tik’, and is often called in duo between a pair of birds.
Fernbirds build nests of tightly woven tussock or other long rush-like leaves, either low down or raised up to 2 metres above wet ground. They often make a hood, oriented to shelter the nest against wind and rain. The Māori phrase ‘te whare o te mātātā’ (a fernbird’s house) describes a woven flax cape, made to keep out the weather.
Look out for our South Island Fernbird stickers on 200g coffee packs in South Island supermarkets. 20c donated to Forest and Bird to help protect threatened species in the Catlins.