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Dawn Chorus - New Zealand

by Andrew Skeoch

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"This morn I was awakd by the singing of the birds ashore, from whence we are distant not a quarter of a mile. The numbers of them were certainly very great, who seemd to strain their throats with emulation perhaps; their voices were certainly the most melodious wild musick I have ever heard, almost imitating small bells, but with the most tuneable silver sound imaginable, to which maybe the distance was no small addition."

These are the words of Joseph Banks, botanist aboard Capt. Cook’s Endeavour, moored off the New Zealand coast on January 17, 1770.

The birdsong on this recording is likely very close to what was heard 250 years ago.

Can a whole dawn chorus become endangered? In New Zealand this has become a serious question, as the island's native birds have been decimated by predators introduced since colonisation, with some species lost altogether. Island sanctuaries are one of the remaining places one can hear New Zealand's natural dawn chorus in its splendor. And it was on one of these - Tiritiri Matangi - that this recording was made.

This album allows you to experience a complete and vibrant dawn chorus of New Zealand native birdsong.

We begin in its early phase when Tuis, Kiwis and owls call in the dark. The tinkling of Bellbirds arrives with first light, along with a full chorus of Whiteheads, Robins and other indigenous species. Afterwards, we listen on into a morning rich with native birdsong including Saddlebacks, Stitchbirds, and concluding with the rare calls of the Kokako.


I was extraordinarily lucky with this recording. Prior to our visit, the spring weather had been foul, with strong winds and gloomy days. On the day we arrived on Tiritiri, the winds calmed and the sun came out, the first warm day of the season. Over the following mornings, the birds took their cue, and sung their hearts out.

I chose my recording location carefully, selecting a well-vegetated gully on the island's northeast side. It was not only some of the best habitat on the island, but faced away from the mainland and any noise emanating from Auckland.

A huge amount of volunteer effort has gone into restoring both the environment and bird populations of this small island. It has been a decades-long project. In visiting, we found we were in the company of locals who had also come simply to hear their own native dawn chorus. New Zealand is one of the few places in the world that I have found birdsong so appreciated.


released October 3, 2018

Recording location:
Tiritiri Matangi Island, off Auckland, New Zealand


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Andrew Skeoch Australia

Andrew is a master wildlife field recordist. For over 30 years, he and partner / photographer Sarah Koschak have been documenting the voices of the world's ecosystems and wild creatures. The resulting recordings have been published through their dedicated label: Listening Earth ... more

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