Grey warbler/riroriro

Today a small bird flew into our ranch slider, and unfortunately it did not survive.

We moved it to the side so no one would step on it, then let it sit for a couple of hours to see if it would revive. (I knew it was gone, but I let her process in her own way.)

At first she had anxiety about touching it, but by afternoon, curiosity got the better of her, so we decided to examine it closer-as it was a rare opportunity given to us by Mother Nature.

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We got out some rubber gloves and she tested how the wings spread and moved, and how the tailfeathers spread out. We looked at all of the colours and different feathers, the face and the amazing (ansodactyl) claws.

bird feet.JPG

After we did our learning, we thanked the bird for blessing us with it’s knowledge and gently placed it in some tall brush so the ants and flies could work their magic.

I spoke to Sophia about how she now has a gray warbler as a totem and she was so happy knowing that she has a nest builder, spider catcher and songbird around her.

She may even compose her next song, based upon the sound of the gray warbler. (You can hear the recording of the territorial call in the information below)

We studied the information (below) from the DOC website. It is fascinating to be able to learn about, and see the beauty of these magnificent birds up close.

We now recognise their song as the sound that is always in the background at our place.

What an amazing learning adventure.

Department of Conservation Website information:

Grey warbler/riroriro

The grey warbler is a relatively inconspicuous grey bird that flits about the canopy of the forest but its call permeates the forest and takes the edge off a hard uphill slog for any attentive tramper.

These diminutive insectivorous birds busy themselves along branches seeking out small invertebrates.

Grey warbler (Gerygone igata) was the surprise recipient of the title of New Zealand’s best-loved bird in 2007.


Drawing of grey warbler perched on a branch. From Buller, Walter Lawry. A History of the Birds of New Zealand. Out of copyright.
Grey warbler perched on a branch

Grey warbler. Image: M.F. Soper.
Grey warbler

The grey warbler/riroriro are found throughout New Zealand.

They are a small grey-brown bird with pale grey on the face throat and breast and an off white belly and under tail.

Weighing about 6.5g, which is around one-third the weight of a mouse, makes them one of New Zealand’s lightest birds.

They are insectivores with a habit of hovering to pick insects and spiders from plants.

Grey warblers are clever nest builders. They have distinctive domed hanging nests with a small side entrance hole.

They are one of few native passerines to have benefitted from human modification of the landscape.

Sound recording

Grey warbler song (MP3, 527K) (opens in new window)
1 minute 26 second recording of a grey warbler’s territorial call. The bird is flying between perches, answering a tape recorder.

Note: Right-click the song link for options to save. Bird songs may be reused according to our copyright terms. More help on files.


“People call grey warblers dull, but they’re the subconscious sound of New Zealand.”
– Graeme Hill, Campaign Manager for the grey warbler in Forest & Bird’s 2007 New Zealand’s bird of the year competition


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