See & Do  >  Wildlife & Conservation  >  Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary

Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary

It’s taken an enormous amount of work over decades to return the bush and the birds to islands like Motuara in the Queen Charlotte Sound, which was covered in lush forest when Captain James Cook used it to claim British sovereignty over the South Island in 1770.

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In the beginning of the 20th century, the island was used for farming, but in 1920 Motuara was declared a reserve.

The bird sanctuary is now predator free, and visitors can walk to a lookout at the top, via tui, bellbird, cheeky robins and fantails, as well as yellow-crowned parakeets and around 200 South Island saddleback. Cruises depart from Picton daily for trips to the island, which is about an hour by boat.

You’ll see penguin nesting boxes, with downy chicks in residence, but the most important species on the island - the nocturnal Okarito brown kiwi - is hidden from sight to most.

There are just 400 rowi nationwide, and the birds here are part of Project Rowi and Operation Nest Egg, through which eggs are removed from the natural habitat of Okarito on the West Coast, hatched in captivity, and the chicks taken to Motuara to grow through to adolescence, before being returned home.

Please make sure there are no pests stowed away on your boat or in your gear. No dogs allowed.

Spot the king shag, a rare bird with a population of 500-600, which sit off Motuara Island, three other nearby islands, and nowhere else in the world. These birds are shy and precious, so keep at least 100 metres from their nesting and roosting sites.

You’ll see plenty of other seabirds in the Marlborough Sounds, including beautiful little blue penguins, gannets, shags, terns, shearwaters, white-faced herons, kingfishers and oystercatchers.

Conditions & Environment Info