Fast flying falcons

Department of Conservation —  11/11/2013
Anna ready to take photos of the NZ falcons at Wairakei Forest.

Anna with her camera ready

By Anna McKnight, Partnerships Ranger, Taupō.

A pair of rare New Zealand falcon/kārearea are currently nesting at Craters Mountain Bike Park at Wairakei Forest near Taupō.

The kārearea is a courageous bird. One time, in Aoraki/Mt Cook, a falcon defended itself against an Iroquois helicopter that got too close to its nest.

The helicopter was training with the Search and Rescue team and had to move, as it didn’t want to get the falcon caught in its rotor blades. Kārearea 1, Helicopter 0. That was one brave bird!

Having worked for the Department of Conservation (DOC) in Aoraki/Mt Cook, I knew what to expect when preparing to take photos of kārearea.

Karearea. Photo: Peter Langlands. DOC Use Only.

Karearea. Photo: Peter Langlands

As Murphy’s Law would have it, I was dressed for the office that day—with skirt, stockings and town boots—not very practical. So I raided my fire bag, and with helmet and fire boots for the terrain, I was ready to be dive bombed!

A NZ falcon soaring through the air at Wairakei Forest.

The kārearea speeds towards me

What I wasn’t ready for is the speed of the falcon. They are thought to get up to 200 kilometre per hour!

The falcon flew straight at me, but they were, in this case, just whizzing past to scare me, rather than striking. I need a better, and faster camera!

The sheer speed made the perfect falcon shot elusive, and I decided it is probably best left to the professionals!

NZ falcon pair sitting on a branch in Wairakei Forest.

Falcon pair defending their nest on Craters mountain bike track

It is exciting to be near such a rare and strong bird of prey, but I tried to be as quick as possible so I didn’t stress the parents out too much. Apologies for the amateur photos! If you are a kārearea fan and want to see some more professional photographs check out the page on the New Zealand Birds Online website.

7 responses to Fast flying falcons


    Part of Saving Biodiversity is making us awear of it. What are you Dave, some kind of green nazi. The more it’s made something that Joe average can participate in the better. Don’t close off the outdoors, people need to see this stuff. Every time someone jumps up and down telling us we can’t go there or we are’t good enough to see something special then you loss.
    Anna is doing what lots of people would love to be able to do. And in a way that can connect to lots of office based people in this instance..
    I think this is a good way of DOC connecting with the next generation. Somethig that DOC needs to do a lot more of.
    Me most of my time in the bush is now as a Hunter and my income would see a significant boost from mineral exploration etc so I’m not a DOC fan but I can appreciate what they do from my love of the outdoors, We just differ around the fringes.


    Awesome anna good to see you out and about loving the story.


    Thank you for this important information Dave B!! I am horrified to think that I could have hurt the birds.

    Thanks Tim. As I am a bird fan, I still love the fuzzy photo to pieces!!


      Please tell me that the MTB people have been advised to close that track, speeding bikers and defending falcons do not mix – an OSH incident me thinks, they have been warned I persume. Also of course those MTB types wear helmets too!
      Also perhaps instead of wasting time and resources on videoing equipment some cat and stoat traps would be far more benificial, after all we already have footage of a cat munching two falcon chicks on film!
      Remember DOC used to be involved with protecting our biodiversity not fiming it for human interest?
      PS – Donna F from Twizel would be gutted to see you wearing a helmet too!


    If you knew what to expect you should have known not to wear a helmet! Falcons strike with their feet/talons and you could have caused the birds damage. If you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen you shouldn’t go there – bleeding amateur – all for a bleeding photo for some fuzzy feel good news DOC story!
    Next time wear a soft hat, even a beany will help protect your head.


    Still great photos, the one heading towards you is excellent!