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Big Bird goes to the birds in New Zealand eco paradise

Birds of a feather flock together so it wasn’t so surprising when television’s much-loved Big Bird flew in (practically incognito) on a visit to meet some of New Zealand’s unique feathered species.


Big Bird – the giant yellow canary from Sesame Street, a favourite of generations of television viewers – made an unannounced appearance this week at Wellington’s Zealandia Eco-sanctuary, an inner city paradise and safe haven for a thriving urban population of rare birds.


Hosting Big Bird in his hometown is Flight of the Conchords star, Bret McKenzie, showing his guest the capital city sights with first stop at Zealandia to meet some distant cousins. Big Bird ruffled his feathers in front of a forest-fringed lake, posed for photos and waved to a crowd of friendly locals enjoying a fine autumn school holiday at one of the city’s most popular family experiences.


The star of stage and screen is in New Zealand’s capital city for the Jim Henson Retrospectacle - a stage show bringing together many of the popular characters from Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock, and honouring their creator, the late Jim Henson.


Big Bird is appearing with fellow Sesame Street stars, Bert and Ernie, and Rosita, along with Kermit the Frog. At a media appearance earlier the same day, the co-stars talked about their visit, citing New Zealand’s natural environment and hospitality as among their top impressions.  


  • “We love New Zealand, it’s so beautiful here.” (Ernie)
  • “It’s very green, and that’s important to me.” (Kermit)
  • “New Zealand people say hello to you when you walk down the street.” (Bert)
  • “Everyone’s so friendly. We’ve met so many new friends here.” (Kermit)
  • “I’ve only been here a few days, but gosh I’d love to take the people of New Zealand home. They’re so wonderful, I’d love to take them home with me but I didn’t bring enough luggage to fit ‘em all.” (Ernie)


While in Wellington, the group is ticking off a top five list of places and family friendly attractions to visit including Zealandia Eco-sanctuary, Cuba Street Bucket Fountain, Te Papa – the national museum, the waterfront walkways and Red Rocks seal colony.

Background: Zealandia Eco-sanctuary, Wellington


Acknowledged as one of Australasia’s top 25 eco projects, Zealandia Eco-sanctuary is a 10-minute drive or short bus ride from Wellington’s urban centre. The sanctuary is a 500-year vision to return part of Wellington to its pre-human state, and has involved developing over 35km of walkways through 252ha of regenerating native forest protecting wildlife behind 8kms of predator-proof fences. Reintroduced native flora and fauna include rare New Zealand tuatara (dinosaur reptiles), flightless birds such as the kiwi and takahe, and forest parrot.


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