New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

Endangered Seabirds

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These stamps were designed with a special thermochromic twist - if you warm up the stamp, the bird silhouette disappears! 

Issue information

New Zealand’s unique marine environment is home to a diverse range of seabirds, giving New Zealand the title of ‘seabird capital of the world’. Five of our most endangered seabirds are featured on this unique stamp issue that used thermochromic ink to reflect the disappearing nature of these precious birds.

Of the approximately 10,000 known species of birds, seabirds only make up a very small fraction with just approximately 360 in the world. Seabirds are classified as birds that almost exclusively feed on food from the ocean, and while some thrive in New Zealand with populations in the high thousands (if not millions), other birds are not so lucky.

Featured in this special conservation issue are five breeds of seabirds found in New Zealand – the Antipodean Albatross, the New Zealand Fairy Tern, the Chatham Island Shag, the Black-billed Gull and the Chatham Island Taiko. All five species are considered ‘nationally critical’. According to the Department of Conservation, this means that there are either less than 250 mature breeding pairs or there has been more than a 70% decline in their population over ten years or three generations (whichever is longer).

Threats to these species and other endangered seabirds include introduced predators, modification of seabird breeding habits and marine pollutants that enter the marine environment.

Unique Conservation Stamps with a Twist

Each of the five stamps featured an image of the endangered bird with a smaller silhouette printed in thermochromic ink. If you warm up face of the stamp (with your finger, for example), the birds turn translucent and disappear, mimicking the decline of the populations of these creatures.

Included in this special issue was a first day cover, a miniature sheet and a miniature sheet first day cover that incorporate images of the birds alongside silhouettes of the coastlines they reside in. The miniature sheet featured the Chatham Island shag and the first day cover featured the New Zealand Fairy Tern.

Product Listing for Endangered Seabirds

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Antipodean Albatross' gummed stamp.

The Antipodean albatross is a large albatross that breeds almost exclusively on the Auckland and Antipodes Islands. They are masters of low-energy flying and forage over the contintental shelf edge and deep water areas.

Single Stamp

Single $1.40 'New Zealand Fairy Tern' gummed stamp.

The New Zealand Fairy Tern is the most threatened of New Zealand’s birds. Its tiny population of around 50 birds is seriously threatened by introduced predators, human disturbance, habitat loss and coastal development.

Single Stamp

Single $2.00 'Chatham Island Shag' gummed stamp.

Restricted to the Chatham Islands as their name suggests, this large black and white shag, is a conspicuous bird along the rocky coastlines. Colonies and roost sites are located on rocky headlands and islets and there is one colony in the Te Whanga Lagoon.

Single Stamp

Single $2.50 'Black-Billed Gull' gummed stamp.

Black-billed Gulls are strongly colonial and breed predominantly on braided rivers from the coast to the headwaters. The species is found throughout New Zealand but is most common east of the southern divide in the South Island and in Southland.

Single Stamp

Single $3.00 'Chatham Island Taiko' gummed stamp.

One of the world’s rarest seabirds, the Chatham Island Taiko’s population is estimated at less than 200. The only known breeding site is at the southern end of main Chatham Island. The bird was known from only one specimen captured at sea in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean in 1867.

Miniature Sheet Mint, used or cancelled gummed miniature sheet. $9.70
First Day Cover First day cover with five gummed stamps affixed. $10.20
Miniature Sheet First Day Cover First day cover with gummed miniature sheet affixed. $10.20
Presentation Pack The definitive collectable in this issue, the presentation pack contained in-depth information about each of the seabirds featured on the stamps, as well as further explanation as to why New Zealand is the seabird capital of the world and why these birds are disappearing. This presentation pack was compiled by Chris Gaskin, a passionate advocate for greater awareness of New Zealand’s diverse seabird fauna. Chris is an independent seabird researcher with ongoing studies in northern New Zealand, including the Hauraki Gulf and Kermadec Islands. $29.90
Limited Edition

Learn the full story with the Endangered Seabirds limited edition. The limited edition was produced in limited numbers, and contained exclusive stamp products unique to this issue. Written by Dr Colin Miskelly, Te Papa’s Terrestrial Vertebrate curator and editor of New Zealand Birds Online, the digital encyclopaedia of New Zealand Birds, the Limited Edition was a must have for any serious collector and made a perfect addition to any bird-themed philatelic collection. Inside you found plate blocks of each of the five stamps, a specially designed first day cover, a unique numbered miniature sheet, a complete set of stamps and colour separations of the $3.00 stamp.

Still available for purchase. Click here.


Technical information

Date of issue: 3 September 2014
Number of stamps: Five gummed stamps
Stamps, miniature sheet, first day covers, presentation pack and limited edition designed by: Stamps and Collectables, New Zealand Post, Wellington, New Zealand
Denominations: 80c, $1.40, $2.00, $2.50 and $3.00
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print Ltd, New Zealand by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours plus thermochromic ink
Stamp size and format: 40mm x 30mm (horizontal)
Paper type: Tullis Russell 104gsm red phosphor gummed stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet: 25
Perforation gauge: 14
Special blocks: Plate/imprint blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps from a sheet. Barcode blocks were available in A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 2 September 2015.