Learn more about some of Kaikōura’s native species!

Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus)

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  • Size: Male 14-18 metres and 43,000-56,000 kg, females 11-12 metres and 13,000-20,000 kg
  • Lifespan: At least 60-70 years
  • Diet: medium-large squid species, deep-sea sharks, octopus, rays and fish
  • New Zealand Threat Classification: Vulnerable
  • When to see in Kaikōura: All year round


Humpback Whales (Megaptera  novaeangliae)

humpbacks from kori fb

  • Size: Up to 17 metres long, up to 40,000 kg
  • Lifespan: At least 50 years
  • Diet: krill and schooling fish
  • New Zealand Threat Classification: Least concern
  • When to see in Kaikōura: May/June and October/November are the best times to see Humpback whales on their annual migration past Kaikōura


Killer Whale (Orcinus Orca)

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  • Size: Males up to 9.8 metres long and 10,000 kg, females up to 8.5 meters long and 7500 kg
  • Lifespan: male at least 50-60 years, females at least 80-90 years
  • Diet: fish (including sharks and rays), squids, octopuses, penguins and other seabirds, turtles, seals, whales, porpoises and other dolphin species.
  • New Zealand Threat ClassificationData deficient
  • When to see in Kaikōura: Can come through Kaikōura at anytime of the year


Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus)

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  • Size: 1.6-1.9 metres, 70-85 kg
  • Lifespan: 26-30 years
  • Diet: small schooling fish and some larger fish species, squid
  • New Zealand Threat Classification: Data deficient
  • When to see in Kaikōura: All year round


Hector’s Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori)

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  • Size: 1.2-1.6 metres, 45-60 kg
  • Lifespan: Up to 25 years
  • Diet: small fish, squid and crustaceans
  • New Zealand Threat Classification: Endangered
  • When to see in Kaikōura: All year round
*Approximately 300 Hector’s dolphins use the area between the Hapuku river mouth and the Haumuri bluffs, for more see:
J. & O. Sagnol.  2015. Distribution and abundance of Hector’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori) off Kaikoura, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 49: 376–389
A full list of KORI related academic publications can be found here


New Zealand Fur Seal, Kekeno (Arctocephalus forsteri)

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  • Size: Males up to 2.5 metres and 90-150 kg, females up to 1.5 metres and 30-50 kg
  • Lifespan: Up to 15 years
  • Diet: Squid and fish
  • New Zealand Threat Classification: Least concern
  • When to see in KaikōuraAll year round


Short-beaked Common Dolphin (Delphinus dolphin)

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  • Size: Male 1.7-2.4 metres, female 1.6-2.2 metres, both up to 200kg
  • Lifespan: At least 25 years
  • Diet: small schooling fish and squid
  • New Zealand Threat Classification: Least concern
  • When to see in Kaikōura: All year round


Little Blue Penguins, Kororā (Eudyptula Minor)

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  • Size: 40 centimetres
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Diet: Small fish and crustaceans
  • Conservation Status: Declining
  • When to see in Kaikōura: All year round


Hutton’s Shearwater, Tītī (Puffinus Huttoni)

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  • Size: 36-38 centimetres
  • Lifespan: Find
  • Diet: Fish and crustaceans
  • Conservation StatusNationally vulnerable
  • When to see in Kaikōura: August – March

*Learn more about the endangered Hutton’s Shearwaters, and the efforts to protect them in Kaikōura, here.



Southern Royal Albatross, Toroa (Procellariformes Diomedeidae) *

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  • Size: 1.2 metres
  • Lifespan: Into their forties
  • Diet: Newly spawned squid and octopuses, fish, crustaceans
  • Conservation StatusNaturally Uncommon
  • When to see in Kaikōura: All year round

*The Southern Royal is just one of several albatross species found around Kaikoura



Giant Petrel (Macronectes halli)

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  • Size: 80-95 centimetres
  • Lifespan: 25 years
  • Diet: Scavenge corpses of mammals and birds, penguin and albatross chicks, other seabirds and fish
  • Conservation StatusRecovering
  • When to see in Kaikōura: All year round


Banded Dotterel, Tūturiwhatu (Charadrius bicinctus)

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  • Size: 20 centimetres
  • Lifespan: Up to 12 years
  • Diet: Crustaceans, flies, worms, insect larvae
  • Conservation StatusNationally Vulnerable
  • When to see in KaikōuraJuly – February

Read more about conservation work going on to help the Banded Dotterel’s here.



Australasian Gannet, Tākapu (Morus serrator)

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  • Size: 85-94 centimetres
  • Lifespan: 25-38 years
  • Diet: Fish and squid
  • Conservation Status: Not threatened
  • When to see in Kaikōura: July – March


References:

  • Baker, C.S., B.L. Chilvers, S. Childerhouse, R. Constantine, R. Currey, R. Mattlin, A. van Helden, R. Hitchmough and J. Rolf, Conservation status of New Zealand marine mammals, 2013, New Zealand Threat Classification Series 14, Wellington: Department of Conservation
  • Department of Conservation Website, https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/, Accessed: 2018
  • New Zealand Birds Online, http://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/, Accessed: 2018
  • Todd, B. 2014. Whales and Dolphins of Aotearoa New Zealand, Wellington : Te Papa Press.      
  • Weir, J. & O. Sagnol.  2015. Distribution and abundance of Hector’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori) off Kaikoura, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 49: 376–389.