Look out for shore­birds pro­tect­ing nests on riverbeds

Manawatu Guardian - - NEWS -

It's risky for shore­birds' nest sites on gravel riverbeds.

DOC Manawatu¯ district se­nior ranger biodiversity Sue Moore says shore­birds such as banded dot­terel and pied stilts will be seek­ing out nest­ing sites on rivers in the Ran­gi­tikei, Manawatu¯ and Horowhenua.

These shore­birds are not as nu­mer­ous as they once were. Their nest sites on gravel riverbeds are vul­ner­a­ble to dis­tur­bance and pre­da­tion.

“Breed­ing on a river bed is risky busi­ness. Nest­ing shore­birds have to con­tend with in­tro­duced preda­tors, floods, and weeds en­croach­ing on their nest sites,” says Ms Moore. “We can help in­crease their chances of suc­cess by min­imis­ing dis­tur­bance from peo­ple and dogs.”

Eggs and chicks are highly cam­ou­flaged to help keep them safe from aerial preda­tors (such as hawks). Un­for­tu­nately, it doesn't pro­tect them from threats on the ground, like hedge­hogs, rats, stoats, cats, dogs, peo­ple and ve­hi­cles.

Although nests can be dif­fi­cult to spot, shore­birds will of­ten leave their nest and fake an in­jury to di­vert un­wanted at­ten­tion from the eggs or chicks.

“Dis­trac­tion dis­plays are a good tac­tic, but if par­ents are away from their nest too long, eggs may get cold and die,” says Ms Moore. “If you see a shore­bird squawk­ing and drag­ging its wing, there is a good chance it has a nest nearby so give it a wide berth.”

Shore­birds may be nest­ing and rais­ing chicks from Au­gust to Fe­bru­ary. Lo­cally, you are most likely to come across banded dot­terel, black-fronted dot­terel, pied stilt, and — if you are lucky — black-billed gulls.

Tu­turi­whatu or banded dot­terel (Charadrius bicinc­tus) are a threat­ened species that breed only in New Zealand. They have a nar­row black band on the neck and a wide chest­nut band on the breast dur­ing the breed­ing sea­son. Eggs are laid from Au­gust to early Novem­ber in shal­low scrapes lined with peb­bles. They al­most al­ways pro­duce three eggs, which are usu­ally grey-green with small dark spots.

Poaka or pied stilts (Hi­man­to­pus hi­man­to­pus) will also fake in­juries to draw preda­tors away from their nests. If this doesn't work, they have been known to ‘dive-bomb' in­trud­ers, swoop­ing at great speed and mak­ing lots of noise to in­tim­i­date the en­emy. They were quite com­mon in New Zealand but their num­bers are de­clin­ing.

Tara¯ puka or black-billed gulls have the un­for­tu­nate sta­tus of be­ing the most threat­ened gull species in the world. Scat­tered pop­u­la­tions in the North Is­land are usu­ally found on sparsely veg­e­tated gravel flats of riverbeds, such as the Manawatu¯ River. If you see black-billed gulls nest­ing in the area please con­tact the Manawatu¯ Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion.

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