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Wrybill

Anarhynchus frontalis

The Wrybill, known in Māori as ngutuparore, is a small and plump plover unique to New Zealand. It is the only bird species in the world with a beak that curves to one side, always to the right, a feature that distinguishes it from all other avian species.

Identification Tips

Adult Wrybills exhibit sexual dimorphism in their plumage. Males sport a white forehead and a pale grey crown, nape, back, wings, and tail, with a distinctive thin black breast band that becomes less pronounced outside the breeding season. Females have a similar coloration but with a thinner breast band. Both sexes may have a small black bar between the white forehead and grey crown, more prominent in males. The most striking feature is their long, black bill, uniquely curved to the right.

Habitat

Wrybills breed on the large, braided river systems of Canterbury and Otago in the South Island, favoring dynamic rivers free from overgrowth.

Distribution

Endemic to New Zealand, Wrybills breed in the South Island and migrate to the North Island's coastal estuaries and sheltered areas post-breeding.

Behaviour

Wrybills exhibit territorial behavior during breeding but roost in large flocks during winter. They are known for their impressive aerial displays and tend to roost on one leg, hopping away when approached.

Song & Calls

The Wrybill's vocalizations include a short 'weet' in flight signaling alarm, a harsher call for greater alarm, and a chirring sound to challenge aggressors. Fledglings and juveniles emit a high-pitched 'peep'.

Breeding

Monogamous pairs return to the same territory annually, with strong philopatry influencing their choice. Nesting sites are shallow scrapes among stones or sand, with two well-camouflaged eggs per clutch. Both parents incubate the eggs, and chicks are independent soon after the 35-day fledging period.

Diet and Feeding

Wrybills forage in shallow channels and pool edges, feeding on insect larvae, aquatic invertebrates, and occasionally small fish. Their rightward-curved beak is thought to aid in extracting prey from under rock crevices.

Conservation Status

The Wrybill is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Threats include predation, habitat degradation, and disturbance, with introduced mammalian predators posing significant risks. Conservation efforts have seen their numbers rise from around 2,000 to 5,000 since 1940 when they gained protection.

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