Godwits Welcomed by Cathedral Bells

Thursday 19 October 2023

The bells of Waiapu Cathedral in Napier will ring out across the city at 1pm on Sunday 22 October to welcome back to Ahuriri Estuary the bar-tailed godwit or kuaka, which make an incredible 12,000 kilometer flight across the Pacific to roost in the wetlands for summer feeding.   

“We are joining in with the celebration of the return of these amazing creatures from their epic journey as they herald the start of summer and remind us of the value of our beautiful wetland for them to feed and rest in,” says Di Woods, Dean of Waiapu Cathedral.

Waiapu Cathedral started their new tradition last year, following the practice of the Nelson Cathedral which has welcomed the birds with bells for some years.   Keith James (and perhaps one of his trainee bell ringers) will make the kuaka peal this year. 

The 1pm peal will mark the start of the local guided walk through the Ahuriri Estuary lead by Bernie Kelly of Birds NZ and the Ahuriri Estuary Protection Society . They will provide scopes so people can get a closer look at the birds.  Details of the walk are on the Birds NZ Facebook page.

The Ahuriri godwits breed in Alaska during the northern summer and then make the non-stop flight to New Zealand.  Technology enables us to track them as they fly south.  They arrive very tired and hungry, so the health of the estuary is important to their wellbeing as it is a key food supply.  Other godwits groups roost in wetlands in other parts of New Zealand. 

The birds will stay in Ahuriri until March when they will return to Alaska via a stopover to improve their health ready for breeding in the northern summer.

Join the Guided Walk 

The guided walk with Birds NZ and the Ahuriri Protection Society will meet at the Beach Inn, Meeanee Quay, Westshore on Sunday, October 22 at 1pm.  The event will be cancelled if there is wet weather and people can register for info at aeps.hb@gmail.com

Bar-tailed Godwit or Kuaka in Estuary