A large, bulky, long-legged waterbird has been spotted in the Tauranga Harbour.
Peter Mole sent a photo to SunLive after capturing the bird on camera on Thursday afternoon.
Along with its long legs, the Royal Spoonbill has white plumage and black spoon-shaped bill, facial skin, legs and feet.
During the breeding season, adults grow distinctive long white crest feathers on the back of the head or nape, up to 20 cm long in males.
The crest is raised during mating displays revealing pink skin beneath. The bill is 136 - 220 mm long; the wingspan is circa 120 cm.
“Breeding birds have a creamy-yellow breast, a yellow patch above each eye, and a red patch in the middle of the forehead in front of the crest feathers,” says a post on www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz
“Females are slightly smaller than males, with shorter legs and bill. Outside the breeding season the crest feathers are smaller and the rest of the plumage often appears soiled. Juveniles resemble non-breeding adults but are slightly smaller with a shorter bill, dark tips to the main flight feathers, and lack a crest and coloured face patches.
“When wading in shallow water it often submerges the bill and repeatedly sweeps it in a wide arc in search of prey.”
There are two records of the similar yellow-billed spoonbill in New Zealand, which is slightly larger and heavier, with a pale yellowish bill and legs.
The white heron is taller and thinner with a slender, pointed, bright yellow bill (note that bill is mainly black just before and during breeding).