Ulva island, land of birds

Ulva island is one of New Zealand’s only open island sanctuaries.

The moment you step off the boat (15min water taxi from Golden Bay in Oban) you’re greeted by birds. The songs carry and the wings flutter. Groups of birds like you’ve never seen before. 

There’s 4 different colour tracks to do, we allowed 5 hours and that was at a slow pace with only really stopping once properly for lunch. We could have easily spent another hour or two and stopped at the seated areas to listen and watch for birds more.

Stewart Island Robin, Ulva Island

The native plants are incredible and we definitely could have paid them more attention, but with our cameras at the ready it was birds that we spent most of the day enjoying. It’s referred to as a ‘Zoo without bars’ and it definitely felt like that.

Birds you can see there range from Brown creeper, Tomtit, Stewart Island Robin, Bellbird, Silvereye, Yellowhead, Kaka, South Island Saddleback, Grey Warbler, Stewart Island Weka, Kakariki, Oyster catcher, Fantail, Tui, Rifleman, Morepork, Kerri, Stewart Island Brown Kiwi.

We saw many of them. Every few meters a Stewart Island Robin would greet us, following and bouncing around. They were probably the easiest to photograph.

Stewart Island Robin
Stewart Island Robin
Stewart Island Robin
Stewart Island Robin
Stewart Island Robin

Saddlebacks and Kakariki seemed to be everywhere also. The Kakariki posed for us from time to time and we saw them in large groups also. Sadly didn’t quite spot a yellow crested one as they aren’t as common as the red.

Saddleback, Ulva Island
Kakariki parrot, Ulva Island
Kakariki parrot, Ulva Island

Weka’s were a given and we learnt to take the time to make sure it wasn’t a kiwi in the bush… because at one point it wasn’t a weka!

Weka on the beach at Ulva Island

It was a Stewart Island Brown Kiwi, one of 30-40 kiwi that act strange by sharing the nesting with their partner and taking turns feeding during the day/night. A couple behind us spotted it first walking across the track, then they told us as they spotted it along the forest floor below!

Stewart Island Brown Kiwi

Cute tiny Rifleman were amazingly low in the forest sometimes, given they live in the canopy normally.

Rifleman, Ulva Island

Kaka’s were flying high most of the time, but we spotted a few in the forest, even one digging a hole for a nest in the ground!

Kaka high in the trees, Ulva Island

Bellbirds and Tomtits were present too, but a bit harder to get photos of and we probably heard other birds but they don’t always make it easy for us to spot them!

Bellbird, Ulva Island

Ulva island is a truely special place and all the people of Stewart Island treat it as their jewel. It’s a must-see if you like birds and nature. You don’t need a tour, just a water taxi or ferry boat. Go early and give yourself plenty of time.

Check out my not so recent (but still recent) Stewart Island and the Rakiura Great Walk post here.

For more about Ulva Island check out https://www.ulvaisland.org/ or https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/southland/places/stewart-island-rakiura/ulva-island-te-wharawhara/?tab-id=50578