Bells to Welcome Godwit-Kuaka

Wednesday 28 September 2022

Waiapu Cathedral in Napier will ring the bells on the afternoon of Sunday 2 October to welcome back to Ahuriri Estuary the bar-tailed godwit or kuaka, an incredible bird that undertakes a 12,000 kilometer flight to return here for summer feeding.

“We want to celebrate the return of these amazing creatures from their epic journey as they really herald the start of spring,” says Dean Di Woods, of Waiapu Cathedral.

Nelson Cathedral has been welcoming the godwits to their region in this way for some years, and Waiapu Cathedral decided to join this tradition to acknowledge the importance of the Ahuriri Estuary for our region’s environment.  

Both cathedrals’ kuaka welcome was originally scheduled closer to the time the first birds started arriving in mid-September but the Royal funeral delayed this, so they will now chime the bells following their Animal Blessing service in the afternoon of 2 October.  In Napier this will be at approximately 3.00pm and Keith James will be the bell ringer. 

The Animal Blessing Service is open to everyone who would like their pets blessed at a short service starting at 2 pm by the fountain outside the Cathedral on Browning St Napier.  This is the nearest Sunday to St Francis of Assisi Day who was known for his care and protection of animals.

POSTPONED by the wet weather to Sunday 11 October there will be a guided walk to see the godwits roosting in Ahuriri Estuary at 10am.  Bernie Kelly of Birds NZ and the Ahuriri Estuary Protection Society will lead the walk and provide scopes so people can get a closer look at the birds.  The meeting point is the carpark by the Westshore hotel – details are on the Birds NZ Facebook page.

Every September around 90,000 godwits fly from the southern tip of Alaska to coastal wetlands around New Zealand in what is the longest non-stop flight in the natural world. They take a direct route south from Alaska across the central Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. Unlike seabirds, they cannot rest on water or feed at sea so they arrive in New Zealand ready to rest and eat. 

“We have been tracking some of the birds flying across the Pacific as many of the birds have satellite tags,” says Bernie Kelly of Birds NZ.   People can track their epic journeys in real time online and see how they are faring on

Napier City Council’s Environmental Solutions manager Cameron Burton has welcomed the bell ringing to greet the godwits. “Kuaka are special inhabitants of the estuary, amongst many others, and we need to care for the estuary, so that we can collectively enhance the environmental values of this significant taonga and continue to see these incredible birds continue to return home to be at one with us.”

The Ahuriri godwits will stay until March when they will return to Alaska via a stopover to improve their health ready for breeding.

Bar-tailed Godwit or Kuaka in Estuary