Milford Sound wildlife – what to look out for in spring


Wildlife abounds and forests ring with sweet birdsong as the icy grip of winters gives way to slightly warmer days of spring. It’s a good time of the year to spot our wild locals at their cheeky, friendly, shy or curious best. Just like the people, our wildlife comes in all sorts!

With the promise of warmer days becomes a reality, our friends in the animal kingdom welcome their young into the world and they’re there for us to see. Spring is the breeding season and a really special time to spot our famous wildlife. Here are some of the animals and birds who’ll be out to entertain you during September, October and November.

Fur seals

The Southern fur seals inhabit the fiord year-round. But since they breed between July and November, they’re out and easier to spot at this time of the year. As most sides of the fiords are vertical, you’ll need to look towards flatter rock formations such as Seal Point (a spot you’ll visit on your Milford Sound wildlife cruise) to spot these blubbery creatures as they make the most of the yet scant sunshine. It is easy to view baby fur seals too – and they are simply gorgeous.

Milford Sound Wildlife

The seals of Milford Sound are very photogenic and you can see them basking on the rocks in the sun

2. Penguins

Another regular sight in spring is the Fiordland Crested Penguin – or ‘Tawaki’. One of the rarest mainland penguins in New Zealand, Tawaki is special. The most common time to spot these timid birds is from July to November, when they breed. You’ll recognise them by their broad and distinctive yellow eyebrow streak.

3. Dolphins

It is not uncommon to see bottlenose dolphins when you’re out on the water to enjoy the Milford Sound wildlife. Curious and ever-entertaining, they can often be found performing tricks around the boat to get some ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ out of you. Keep your cameras ready, these pods can be extremely playful and may be out of your sight sooner than you would like. Dusky dolphins, which are smaller, are also occasional visitors to the waters around this time of the year.

Milford Sound Wildlife

If you take a Kayak out on Milford Sound the Dolphins love to come up close to play so you are in for a treat

4. Whales

The giants of the sea are certainly rare in this corner of the world. But sightings of migrating whales have been reported around Milford Sound. Who knows, it could be your lucky day!

5. Blue Ducks or ‘whio’

These rare ducks inhabit the clear, fast-flowing rivers of the Fiordland region. Nesting season begins around end August. Spotting these birds near the rivers that are overflowing with melting snow is sometimes reported on nature walks around the Eglinton Valley during the spring season.

6. Cheeky kea

This beautiful alpine parrot – called the ‘cleverest bird in the world’ by Sir David Attenborough – resides in the high mountainous areas of the park. As the weather opens up and visitors walk through these high spots, they’ll hear the call of the kea. Beware though as these curious creatures will pick on almost anything they find, including shoelaces of hikers, rubber on car windows and picnic baskets!

7. Other birdlife

Birdlife is abundant in the Fiordland area. As you make the most of the warmer days and head out into the forest, you’ll spot a number of birds, including the kaka (a forest-dwelling parrot), Yellow-Crowned parakeets, Yellowheads (mohua), weka and tui.