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Karearea
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Karearea

Karearea, Falcon novaeseelandiae, is the Maori name for the New Zealand native falcon which is sometimes erroneously referred to as a sparrowhawk.

A member of the Falconidae family the Karearea is mainly found in heavy bush and the steep high country in the South Island and is rarely seen north of a line through the central area of the North Island. Although protected since 1970, it is considered to be a vulnerable species.

The Karearea is a Hobby, a bird that is extremely fast and agile in flight. Most of its prey is caught on the wing, and it kills it with a “tooth” on its beak, unlike other Falconiformes which kill with their feet or claws.

It differs from the much larger Australian harrier hawk,  Circus approximans, which is now common throughout New Zealand, in that it catches its own food and is very rarely known to eat carrion. An aggressive bird that displays great violence when defending its territory, the Karearea has been reported to attack dogs as well as man.

With a wingspan of about 45 cm and weight rarely exceeding 450 g, the Karearea is slightly over half the size of the Kahu, the harrier hawk, which it usually attacks on sight. The tierce (male) is about two thirds the size of the female.

The Karearea features on the reverse of the New Zealand $20 note and has twice been used on New Zealand stamps.