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11 Animals and Birds Unique to New Zealand


New Zealand’s weird and wonderful wildlife!

New Zealand was an island free of land mammals before us pesky humans arrived. In turn, this means a few unusual species of animals and birds evolved that that are well worth looking out for while backpacking in New Zealand.

From the alpine parrots to “living dinosaurs”, there are quite a few surprises to be found on land. Not forgetting the marine life living it up in New Zealand’s waters like the world’s smallest dolphins or super cute fur seals.

Can’t get enough of those animals? Wildlife encounters are one of the most rewarding and intriguing New Zealand backpacking experiences, which you can learn more about here.

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1. kiwi Bird

The kiwi bird is the nation’s sweetheart. However, you won’t just find them wandering the streets and stealing your fries. Check out how to spot these rare creatures in our kiwi article.


2. Pekapeka Bat

The only two species left are the lesser short-tailed bat and long-tailed bat. They are the only native land mammal of New Zealand.


3. Hector’s Dolphin

Hector’s dolphins are the world’s smallest dolphin species. They are named after Sir James Hector, who first examined a dolphin specimen. You can mostly spot them riding the waves in the South Island in these locations.


4. Kea Parrot

Kea are the only alpine parrot in the world and are most commonly found in the Arthur’s Pass National Park and on the road to Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park. Warning: these cheeky parrots like dismantling cars.


5. Hamilton’s Frog

A fun fact: Hamilton’s frogs do not croak.


6. Yellow-Eyed Penguins

Yellow-eyed penguins are found around the south east of New Zealand, Banks Peninsula and Stewart Island. Check out our penguin-spotting list.


7. Chevron Skink Lizards

These lizards are only found on the Great Barrier Island and Little Barrier Island.


8. Little Blue Penguins

Little blue penguins are not completely unique to New Zealand, but New Zealand sure has the most amount waddling on the southern coastlines and off-shore islands. Check out places to spot them here.


9. Fur Seal

Although fur seals tend to stick to the coast, they have been known to wander into people’s backyards.


10. Tuatara

Tuataras are the only surviving reptile species from the dinosaur era.


11. Maui Dolphin

This is just a subspecies of Hector’s Dolphin. Honestly, who doesn’t want more pictures of dolphins?


Want to do some animal activities or just can’t get enough of cute pictures? Visit 8 Wildlife Activites in New Zealand.

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