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Whataroa rests on the western banks of the Whataroa River, on State Highway 6. Whataroa lies opposite the village of Te Taho, on the river's eastern banks.
The Waitangiroto Nature Reserve near Whataroa, provides a sanctuary and feeding grounds for New Zealand's only white heron breeding colony.
The white heron (also known as Kotuku) breeds between the months of September and January. Breeding pairs stay in the colony and raise their chicks on precarious nesting platforms.
While they breed, the white heron feed in the large coastal lagoons surrounding the reserve, especially Okarito Lagoon. After breeding, the birds disperse widely and may be seen at coastal freshwater wetlands or estuaries throughout New Zealand.
Visitors can go on an excursion into the nesting area accompanied by a permitted guide. Guided jet boat tours take visitors to view the birds from an observation hideout point.
Okarito is a major feeding area for birds, with more than 70 species being recorded.