Kotuku is the Māori name for the White Heron which is considered a very rare and sacred bird in New Zealand. It is the splendid bird in flight featured on the NZ $2.00 coin. In Maori oratory to see one of these birds just once in a lifetime was believed to be good fortune and to liken someone to a Kotuku was paying them a great compliment.
The only known nesting site for White Heron in New Zealand is on the West Coast of the South Island along the banks of the Waitangiroto River deep within the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve. Access to this area is by guided tour only. It’s presumed the first White Herons were windblown across the Tasman Sea from Australia. It’s not known why the White Herons have only one nesting site in New Zealand or why it’s in the location it is. This remains a mystery of nature.