Wrybill Facts

Anarhynchus frontalis



The bird that we have chosen for our company name is a truly unique species.

  • It is the only bird, anywhere in the world, to have a laterally curved bill.
  • It is endemic to New Zealand, and has never occurred, even as a vagrant, outside the country.
  • It is the only member of its genus.
  • The entire population is only about 3500 – 4000 individuals.

Perhaps as important as anything, is the fact that these birds are fairly readily found and are extremely confiding, often allowing ridiculously close approach. Visitors, at all times of the year, are virtually guaranteed excellent views of wrybill.

Wrybill are about 20cm long, so bigger than a stint or peep, about the size of sanderling and slightly smaller than ruddy turnstone. The last third of the longish black bill turns through 15 – 20 degrees, always to the right. They breed exclusively on the braided rivers of eastern central South Island, New Zealand, where the curved bill allows them to extract caddis-fly and mayfly larvae from under and around stones. Though some individuals remain in the South Island after breeding, the vast majority move northwards, and most winter in the harbours around Auckland. The largest flocks are normally on the Firth of Thames, and it is possible to see up to 75% of the entire (world) population in one flock!!

The population is apparently in slow but steady decline (around 10% decrease per 5 years) for a variety of poorly understood, or unknown, reasons. The species is clearly under threat, and with the previously mentioned concentration of individuals on its wintering grounds, an environmental accident could have devastating consequences. The birds are difficult to protect during breeding, since they nest over large areas of braided river habitat, and no doubt they fall prey to introduced mustelids such as stoats.

Whatever the future holds, we hope that we can continue to show these delightful birds to foreign visitors, and also to the many New Zealanders who have never seen them.