Stratford's King Edward Park has become home to a rare white pīwakawaka, thrilling local birdwatchers and photographers.

The bird was first featured in the Stratford Press in April, after Jim Gould spotted it during his daily walk. He shared his photos on social media and with Stratford Press readers and soon lots of people headed to the park to try and spot the rare bird.

Known for its friendly 'cheet cheet' call and energetic flying antics, the pīwakawaka, or fantail, is one of the most common and widely distributed native birds on the New Zealand mainland.

King Edward Park is becoming a location for many keen photographers keen to capture a photo of the rare bird. Photo / Vicki Zieltjes
King Edward Park is becoming a location for many keen photographers keen to capture a photo of the rare bird. Photo / Vicki Zieltjes

"A white fantail, however, that's not so common at all."

Advertisement

Keen birdwatcher Barry Hartley says while all-white fantails aren't unheard of, they are uncommon.

"So rare, in fact, I don't know much about them!"

White birds of any breed are generally rare, he says, and they don't always do well in the wild.

"They are prone to predation, as they tend to stand out."

Subscribe to Premium

He is pleased to hear one was making its home in the region and says patience, along with a bit of luck, would be needed for anyone looking for it.

"They move a lot throughout the day for feeding, so while they have a set area, that area can be quite extensive."

The white fantail has made its home in Stratford. Photo / Vicki Zieltjes
The white fantail has made its home in Stratford. Photo / Vicki Zieltjes

Peter Fryer, Birds NZ regional representative for Taranaki, says a white fantail is a rare sight.

"As to how many of them there are, my best guess would be perhaps 1:100,000, but that is only a guess."

Advertisement

One was also sighted just north of Auckland a few years ago, he says.

"Interestingly, recently I have also been sent a photo of a black morph fantail. There is also one of those in Auckland. Black fantail are a colour morph of the South Island and there are a few around Wellington."

Looking at photos of the fantail in Stratford, Peter says the fact it has black eyes means it isn't an albino bird, but rather leucistic, which means a partial not full loss of pigmentation.

Fantails normally roost together at night, he says.

"But this one might be getting shunned by its fellows because it looks different. Just like some humans, I suppose, they tend to pick on things that look different to them."

When it comes to people wanting to see the white fantail, Peter urges caution.

"Keep your distance. We are all good at social distancing now, so use those skills. The welfare of the bird is foremost, so enjoy seeing it, but don't crowd it. Please let it get on with its life."

Keen photographer Vicki Zieltjes has, like many others, headed to the park a few times in the hope of seeing the bird.

She captured her stunning shots on her Canon EOS 6D using a 150-600mm lens.

"I had the setting on auto ISO on continuous drive."

The trick, she says, was a combination of making sure she kept the sun behind her so the bird was in the best light, along with plenty of patience.