Bird Identification

Westland petrel (Procellaria westlandica) by Dan Burgin

Having trouble identifying birds?

We’ve summarised some of the best resources below to help you at whatever level you are. Remember, the best way to improve your knowledge and skills is to get outside, even if it’s just your backyard, and take the time to listen and observe. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can pick it up!



The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand Heather & Robertson (2015) – A fantastic resource that goes into more detail than the smaller Hand Guide version (below). Almost the bible to refer to for all New Zealand’s birds past and present. A  much-loved book and highly recommended.

The Hand Guide to the Birds of New ZealandHeather & Robertson (2015) – A slimmer version of the Field Guide that doesn’t have the species accounts but all of the colour paintings. Perfect for taking on the road if you’re worried about weight.


Merlin ID App – We recently helped create a NZ Pack with the fantastic Merlin team, and we’re really excited about this one. Merlin is a free bird identification and basic field guide app that puts the power of the eBird community in your pocket. The New Zealand Pack includes species accounts for the 257 most likely species found in New Zealand. Please let us know if you find errors or if you have suggestions. For more information, visit the Merlin Help Pages or provide feedback by sending an email to


New Zealand Birds Online – The online bible. An awesome resource with a searchable database of all of New Zealand’s birds. You can search by common name, Maori name, and/or scientific name as well as look as species groups and get help identifying birds.

eBird Quizzes – A great way to not only test your ID skills from photos or audio, but also to help rate and validate content. Using content uploaded by eBirders to the Macaulay Library you can take free quizzes for as long as you’d like! Additionally, the more photos you help rate via quizzes, the more accurate the Merlin ID app becomes through it’s computer based Photo ID feature. Win win!

DOC’s Bird ID Course – Whilst limited to only 10 species this is still a great resource to help you with the basics and get you moving forward.

Rare Birds

Come across something you believe to be a rare species, or an unusual sighting? Check out our article on the ‘Rare’ and the ‘Unusual’ reports below: