New Zealand Wildlife

G’day!  You’ve heard all about the unique and fascinating wildlife of Australia, but what about New Zealand?  From the fascinating kiwi bird and the world’s smallest penguins to swimming with dusky dolphins and the massive amount of sheep, discover a variety of critters who call this island country home.


A kiwi on a leaf - Rotorua Tourism - New Zealand Wildlife Travel
Kiwi’s are a beloved icon in New Zealand. Image: Rotorua Tourism

Can you believe such little birds lay such huge eggs? Kiwi eggs take up 20% of their body (for some perspective, a human baby only takes up about 5%). Way to go mama bird! Kiwi birds are among the few species that mate for life- kiwi relationships have been known to last over 20 years!  Most birds don’t have a great sense of smell, but the kiwi has highly developed olfactory senses.  They’re the only birds with nostrils at the end of their beaks.  Kiwi feathers have evolved to suit their ground-based lifestyles (these little guys cannot fly) and are more hair-like in texture.


Sheep standing on a cliff - Annandale - New Zealand Wildlife Travel
Sheep grazing in the beautiful seaside meadows of New Zealand. Image: Annandale 

In New Zealand, there are about 10 sheep to every person- that’s a LOT of sheep! That’s also a lot of congested country roads. Better have a lot of patience if you come up on a herd like this! Here are a few fun New Zealand sheep facts:

  • New Zealand’s first sheep were set ashore by Captain Cook in 1773
  • Sheep have a field vision of around 300 degrees, which means they can see behind themselves without having to turn their head!
  • Sheep are raised for four main products- lamb, mutton, wool (who doesn’t love Merino wool from NZ?!), and sheep’s milk.
  • Rapid sheep population growth in the 1850s & 1860s was due mostly to permanent immigration, rather than a natural increase.
  • The first shipment of frozen lamb and mutton sailed to London from Port Chalmers on The Dunedin in 1882.

Yellow-eyed Penguin

Yellow Eyed Penguin in a forest - Tourism New Zealand - New Zealand Wildlife Travel
Seeing the yellow-eyed penguin is a must for birders. Image: Tourism New Zealand

Yellow-eyed Penguins are some of the largest species of penguins, adults reaching 75cm in height (that’s roughly 2.5 feet tall!) and can be found on the coasts of New Zealand. They’re also endangered due to habitat degradation, food shortages, and predators like cats and ferrets. Most penguins’ voices are not that musical, however, the Yellow-eyed Penguin is actually quite musical. Listen here and learn more.

Quick Yellow-eyed Penguin Facts:

  • Yellow-eyed penguins lay two eggs & parents typically raise both chicks.
  • As their name implies, Yellow-eyed penguins have pale yellow eyes and their head is also a pale yellow, with a bright yellow strip extending from their eyes around the back of their head.
  • Yellow-eyed penguins usually nest in forests and scrub that line the New Zealand coast.
  • The Yellow-eyed penguin is now the rarest penguin in the world due to deforestation and predators.

Dusky Dolphin

Four dolphins jumping in the ocean - Encounter Kaikoura - New Zealand Wildlife Travel
Dusky dolphins are often found among other species of whales and dolphins. Image: Encounter Kaikoura 

These little dolphins are called Dusky Dolphins. They’re super acrobatic and can be seen leaping out of the water and tumbling in the air. They’re very social and super fast swimmers. Clicks, squeaks and whistles can be heard almost 2 miles away when they communicate out of the water. You can even swim with them while you’re in Kaikoura, check out our featured South Island Vacation to learn more, here!

Southern Royal Albatross

Albatrosses by a boat - Encounter Kaikoura - New Zealand Wildlife Travel
Albatrosses can live up 40 years in the wild. Image: Encounter Kaikoura 

Did you know that albatross spend most of their life at sea, sometimes flying up to an estimated 118,060 miles per year? They have a huge wingspan, some reaching up to 3.3 meters across (that’s roughly 10 ten feet!). The only time spent on land is when they return to breed and raise their young. Albatross are also one of the few species that mate for life.

Little Blue Penguin

Two kids by a little blue penguin - Tourism New Zealand - New Zealand Wildlife Travel
Get up close with extremely cute wild little blue penguins. Image: Tourism New Zealand

Little Blue Penguins are the smallest penguins in the world, 13.7 – 16.9 inches tall! They usually nest in burrows, rock crevices, caves, or even under buildings. They only come ashore at dusk, so make sure you get in on a little penguin tour!

Quick Little Penguin Facts:

  • Blue penguins weigh between 1 and 1.5kg (that’s 2-2.5 lbs)
  • Their average lifespan is 6.5 years, but there are some records of penguins living up to 20!
  • Little penguins are often in long-term relationships, but ‘divorce’ is not uncommon.
  • Chicks will often times return to within a few miles of where they were raised, and once they settle in that area they never move away

Ready to begin planning your own vacation to see New Zealand’s wonderful wildlife? Browse our New Zealand travel packages, or give us a call at 888-367-0933 to start planning the adventure of a lifetime!