The Mystery of the Eleven Eggs

Eleven eggs in one nest?  A puzzle!   

We were tramping (the New Zealand word for “hiking”) in the Central Otago region of NZ.  This area has many cave-like tunnels created during gold mining in the 1800’s.


                         Central Otago Region, NZ 2/1/19

My husband was exploring inside these dark tunnels and he was  encouraging me to go in there with him.  I was adamant that I was not going into a manmade tunnel in an isolated area, especially in a country known for it’s earthquakes. It was not a good idea for him to go in there, either.


                         Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

As he was coming out of a tunnel he caught a glimpse of a nest.  It was well hidden behind brush on the side of a wall.

We were surprised to find eleven eggs in this concealed, camouflaged home.

These eggs were large.  Much bigger than robin’s eggs, yet smaller than chicken’s eggs.  What bird is capable of laying eleven eggs?

At that moment, we saw a rabbit running over a hill.   Neither one of us wanted to consider the possibility of The Easter Bunny.  How foolish.  Yet, my husband and I just looked at each other, scratching our heads.



                               Rabbit, Hokitika, NZ 2/5/19

One of the first things I noticed about NZ is the numerous, diverse birds and waterfowl native to this region. 

What kind of bird and what size of bird would lay these eleven eggs? 

We had no access to wifi so I couldn’t ask google questions. 

We did not disturb the eggs, spending a brief amount of time taking  photos.  One of the eggs appeared to have a crack in it.  This egg may have been damaged or a chick was ready to hatch.



Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

We came across very few people on these trails, spending our day tramping in the desert-like hills.  When we met a couple of hikers, we did not share information about the nest or the eggs. We wanted to keep this bird’s secret hiding place safe. 


                         Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

For the rest of the day we carefully scrutinized the different birds we saw.  We couldn’t imagine how any one of them could carry eleven  eggs.

In the evening we did have access to 100mb of wifi.  It was a faint, slow, inconsistent signal. Sometimes we could see words.  Other times we could see photos and words. We were hoarding our wifi mb and using them sparingly. 

A quick check into Messenger to see whether any new family news.  Then, our priority was to google “what bird in the Central Otago region of New Zealand lays eleven eggs?”

We compared our photo of the eggs to other pictures online.  We are quite certain that the eggs we found are from a Pukeko bird and more likely Pukeko birds.



                       Pukeko Bird, Aukland, NZ 2/24/19

The Pukeko bird is very common and widespread in NZ.  Pukeko birds have a complex social life and a highly variable mating system. The birds may nest as monogamous pairs, polyandrous (one female, two or more males), polygynandrous (the male and the female have multiple partners) and polygynous (one male with multiple females, although the female will mate with only one male).  Are you still with me? 



                       Pukeko bird, Aukland, NZ 2/24/19

Each female will usually lay four to six eggs.  A nest can contain as many as eighteen eggs. Multiple breeding females will all lay eggs in the same nest.  All group members contribute to chick care. Weblink    Link      

The eggs in this nest likely belonged to two or more Pukeko birds sharing the nest.

We learned Pukeko are very territorial and aggressive, especially when defending their offspring.  We didn’t see any birds near this nest. 

Even though Pukeko birds are abundant and widespread  throughout NZ, they are new to us. It was interesting to learn about their complex social groups with multiple breeding males and females. We were very fortunate to uncover this nest which prompted us to learn more about the native birds of NZ.  

We have solved The Mystery of the Eleven Eggs. 

As for us and our tramping adventures?  After 42 years I have learned that I cannot tell my husband what to do, even if I want to protect him and prevent any serious mishaps. 

I can only stand by, capture the photos, and be prepared to seek help if necessary. 

If any unfortunate predicaments do occur I will continue to be a caring, supportive, loving wife.

I will not say “I told you so.” 

 At least not out loud.


fullsizeoutput_7433                      Central Otago region, NZ 2/1/19

35 thoughts on “The Mystery of the Eleven Eggs

  1. Great sleuthing on your find! Learning about the local wildlife really enriches the outdoor experience, I think.

    I could never tell my husband anything either. Although if I had a dollar for every time he told me he wished he had listened to me… 😉
    But then I wasn’t all that great at listening to him either 🙂
    Happy Easter, Erica!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deb, I did worry when my husband disappeared into these caves. A selfish confession, If anything happened to him, I didn’t want to be the one having to do all the driving on the sketchy NZ roads. Happy Easter, Deb! 🙂 Erica

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pukeko. The common bird you can see everywhere; except when you are looking for them. I’m still suffering whiplash from the frequent “Was that a pukeko?”. Our best pictures of this elusive, mystical creature were taken at the Auckland zoo. The zoo doesn’t have any in captivity. Priceless!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s such a fascinating story, Erica. I’m like you and would want the answer to what bird would lay so many eggs. I hadn’t heard of birds that mate in that way before. But, yes, you learn new things every day. However, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to enter the tunnel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Amy, We found this nest at the beginning of our visit in NZ in the South Island. It made us more observant of the different types of birds. It was towards the end of our trip we started to see Pukeko birds in the North Island. Lots of fun. Nice to hear from you Amy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I hear ya! I’m not my husband’s mother either. I’m his wife, friend and supporter of dreams coming true. If he wants or needs someone to stop him from doing something that will come from his Mother or his children not me.

    What a beautiful and interesting bird! It reminds me of our Coot, but much more beautiful and discerning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deborah, I googled photos of a Coot. Also vibrant markings. It was fun to learn more about birds native to NZ. You have taken beautiful photos of wildlife. A challenge to capture when they are usually in motion.


  5. So interesting. Love that you followed up and found out all the information about the eggs. Curiosity is a wonderous thing. No way would I be going into those caves. I think it is interesting though how we all seem to have different levels of risk tolerance.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Peta, we became a little obsessive trying to locate NZ birds and learning about them. It was fun piecing together the puzzle. I don’t know whether there is a Mars/Venus thing on risk tolerance? I am definitely the cautious one. Thank you for your comment.


  6. Hi Peta, we became a little obsessive trying to locate NZ birds and learning about them. It was fun piecing together the puzzle. I don’t know whether there is a Mars/Venus thing on risk tolerance? I am definitely the cautious one. Thank you for your comment.


  7. Hi Erica! I have never even heard of that bird before but I think I’d be really curious about those eggs too…and I’m guessing I would have followed your husband in that cave myself. I have a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and just have to see what is there! Great photos too! ~Kathy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kathy, I had not paid much attention to birds in the past. We were fortunate to see and learn about the native birds in NZ. A funny comment about the FOMO, Kathy🙂I think I am still the cautious one. I will stay outside the cave entrance and call for help (for the two of you😉if needed. Thank you for your kind comment.


    1. Hi Barbara, Thank you for your kind comment. We had a lot of fun adventures in New Zealand. My husband and I became a little obsessive looking for the Pukeko and reading about all the birds. I look forward to checking out your posts:) Erica


  8. Hi Erica/Erika, New Zealand is such a gorgeous place to visit and only a hop, skip and jump from Australia, where I live. I remember on one of our visits we saw Kia’s but no Pukeko birds. They are quite striking I think with their red blaze and blue front. I hope you enjoyed hiking in the area because Otago is such a beautiful place. I’ve subscribed to your blog now so I don’t miss any posts. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sue, I hear that Australia is also a gorgeous place to visit and to live. We did see Kea on some of the trails. I think they can be aggressive and I didn’t want to get too close. We finally saw Pukeko birds in Aukland. I always enjoy your posts, Sue:)


  9. Donna sent me this way to meet you. Your photos are beautiful and the story that goes with them is great. So fun to be able to go for a hike and then learn something new in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ally, Thank you for your lovely comment about the photos and story. The eggs were a hidden surprise for us. Then our imagination and curiosity went in many directions. We had a lot of fun and many adventures in New Zealand. I look forward to checking out your site:) Erica


    1. Hi Anne, I am only beginning to sort through our 1000’s of photos. Grateful we were able to visit New Zealand. Thank you for stopping by. I am off to check out your posts:) Erica


  10. hehehe! … “at least not out loud”. Story of my life 😆

    A very interesting bird indeed – multiple females laying eggs in the same nest and then cooperating on raising the chicks. Can you imagine women behaving like this as a norm?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Joanne, You caught my last sentence😅 Story of my life, too. There were a number of other sketchy incidences, like forgetting his trail shoes at the motel and hiking on cliffs wearing crocs. I still shake my head.🤪


      1. OH. MY. GOD!

        Whenever my husband does anything I consider reckless or ill-advised I remind him that his life insurance is paid up to date I will be a wealthy widow.
        It hasn’t changed his behaviour even once, but it makes me feel better 🤣

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susan, I like your words “hidden treasure.” We were thrilled about this, and puzzled. Ultimately a fun day and a fun adventure travelling in New Zealand. Thank you for stopping by. I am off to check out your blog:) Erica

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Tramping sounds so funny. Tramping across the land sounds like your damaging the landscape. Anyhoo each country has weird words. Wow 11 eggs how interesting regarding that bird. So I take it hubby went right into the cave then 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi 3Sisters, Thanks for reading and commenting. I was advised that my 111’s post did not have a comment section. I think that was my second blogging post ever. Live and learn. I hope I corrected it now. Thank you for your kind “likes”. You seem to be on amazing adventures and I look forward to reading more of your posts:) Erica

      Liked by 1 person

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