Story: Game birds
Waiting for dogs to flush pheasants or quail, climbing a ridge before dawn to shoot Canada geese – New Zealand hunters target 14 species of game bird, both native and introduced.
Full story by Neil Deans
Main image: Canada geese, Te Waihora
The Short Story
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Game bird species
New Zealand has 14 species of game birds – birds that can legally be hunted.
Upland game, which live on dry land, include:
- ring-necked pheasants
- grey, red-legged and chukar partridges
- Californian, brown and bob-white quails.
Waterfowl, which live in wetland areas, include:
- four duck species – mallards, grey ducks, Australasian shovelers and paradise shelducks
- Canada geese
- black swans
The hunting season is usually in autumn or winter. At all other times, game birds are protected and cannot be shot. Hunters must have a licence and follow rules about the number of birds they can catch, and the guns and methods they can use.
For centuries, Māori caught birds such as kererū (wood pigeons) for food. European settlers arrived in New Zealand in the early 1800s. They hunted native birds, and brought in other species such as pheasant and quail for hunting.
Hunting upland game
Hunters use dogs to find upland birds and flush them out of their hiding places. Once the birds are flying, a hunter can shoot them.
Most hunters eat the birds they shoot, or give them to friends and relatives. Some restaurants will cook game birds for hunters.
Hunting Canada geese
Some people hunt geese in the South Island high country. They go in groups, getting up before dawn, walking long distances and hunting until night-time.
Bird numbers often fall in winter because of cold weather and lack of food. Hunting harvests some birds that would die anyway in the winter.
Game numbers can be increased in two ways:
- breeding birds on game farms
- taking care of their habitats, so the populations grow naturally.