The rare New Zealand dotterel The rare New Zealand dotterel CREDIT: Greater Wellington Regional Council

A helping hand for Wairarapa's two rarest birds

Monday 5 November 2012, 2:40PM
By Greater Wellington Regional Council


Riversdale locals, regional and district councils are banding together to protect the nesting site of Wairarapa’s two rarest birds.

Two nationally endangered New Zealand dotterel (tuturiwhatu) are attempting to breed at the north end of Riversale Beach, hundreds of kilometres south of their traditional habitat.

Less than 1700 New Zealand dotterels are left in the country and none are known to be breeding south of the sanctuary at Cape Kidnappers.

Greater Wellington Regional Council Biodiversity Coordinator Robyn Smith says no one is entirely sure why the birds are so far south, but everyone she talks to is keen to see them breed successfully.

“The pair has tried to breed in this area for the past two summers without success. “With a bit of help from the community and visitors, we could make this summer third time lucky.”

Ms Smith says New Zealand dotterels are up against it and need all the help they can get.

“They scrape a small dish in the sand and then lay two or three perfectly camouflaged eggs in it. The nest is very easy to miss and the eggs can easily be crushed by feet, paws, hooves or wheels on the beach.

“Cats, hedgehogs, stoats, ferrets and dogs can also eat the eggs or young chicks. The regional council has set up traps in scrub behind the area, so hopefully we can protect them from wild animals.

“It would be great if locals and visitors can keep their dogs on a lead, north of the lagoon and try not to disturb them. We’ve put up a temporary fence and signs to let people know where the birds are.”

Bill Roberts of the Riversdale Beach Ratepayers Association is helping to spread the word about these rare visitors and is keeping an eye on them.

“Locals care about the beach and are interested in the bird life down there. I’m sure everyone wants the New Zealand dotterels to do well,” says Mr Roberts.

Ms Smith says regional council and Masterton District Council staff will be monitoring the birds every time they are in the area, but most of the time they will be left to themselves and the community.

Fences around New Zealand dotterel nests are a common sight on east coast beaches from Bay of Plenty to Northland.

“These birds can nest successfully on busy beaches, but not usually without a helping hand from the community” says Ms Smith.