Keep an eye out for black-billed gulls

Northern Outlook - - OUT & ABOUT - EN­VI­RON­MENT

Last year hun­dreds of tara­puka, or en­dan­gered black-billed gull, nested on a dairy farm near Waikuku beach.

The owner and man­ager of that land re­ceived an en­vi­ron­men­tal award for go­ing out of the way to as­sist the birds.

Ash­ley/Rakahuri River­care Group (ARRG) mem­ber Grant Davey said he had fol­lowed the birds as they moved from the pad­dock of their birth.

‘‘I closely fol­lowed that colony and it was one of the most successful recorded’’.

Davey said he had fol­lowed groups of young tara­puka to the Ash­ley/Rakahuri riverbed and es­tu­ary after they split into two groups.

He had seen the ju­ve­niles ‘‘hang­ing around fish­er­men’’ along the Ash­ley/Rakahuri river­banks and at the ReStart Mall, Christchurch, com­pet­ing with other bird species for lunch scraps.

‘‘They seem to have sur­pris­ingly lit­tle fear of hu­mans. It’s not a good idea to feed them – they need to be able to fend for them­selves, but they go look­ing for hu­mans.’’

While the birds were grow­ing up on the farm, cat­tle had grazed the pad­dock around the colony and a cen­tre pivot had passed over them, pro­vid­ing some likely un­wel­come ir­ri­ga­tion to the birds.

How­ever ARRG chair­man Nick Ledgard said they ‘‘didn’t seem to mind’’ ei­ther event.

Ledgard said num­bers of tara­puka were drop­ping na­tion­ally, so a colony able to form on a busy farm was a boon for con­ser­va­tion of the species.

Davey said he was im­pressed by both the gulls’ abil­ity to shrug off the farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties around them and by the will­ing­ness of the farm­ers to as­sist the colony any way they could.

In recog­ni­tion of host­ing the birds, BRaid (Braided River aid) pre­sented farm owner Tim De­laney and man­ager James Hen­der­son with their bronze en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­cred­i­ta­tion award.

Davey said it was un­likely the farm colony could be repli­cated in fu­ture, un­less the pad­docks were worked at the same time each year.

Now the new sea­son is just un­der­way, and the gulls have been seen prospect­ing po­ten­tial riverside farm breed­ing sites from Waikuku right up to near Cust.

Davey said th­ese black-billed gulls need all the help they can get.

‘‘We would be most grate­ful if any­one see­ing the colony could give us a call on (03 3131107)’’.

SUP­PLIED

Grant Davey pho­tograph­ing a black­billed gull colony on a Waikuku dairy farm.

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