Dogs threaten rare white heron


Two ko­tuku – white herons or great white egrets, have been pho­tographed at the Manawatu Es­tu­ary.

With only an es­ti­mated 150-200 white heron liv­ing in New Zealand, hav­ing a pair of these rare and grace­ful birds at the lo­cal es­tu­ary is re­garded as some­thing spe­cial.

How­ever, con­cerns have been raised that un­re­strained dogs – both lo­cal and vis­it­ing the area – are be­ing al­lowed to run across the mud flats and sand­spits where birds feed, roost and rest, chas­ing af­ter them, and fre­quently caus­ing them to take flight.

It is im­por­tant to note that these birds, com­monly known as shore­line flock birds, are ba­si­cally wad­ing and sea birds that don’t seek shel­ter in trees. This makes them par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to ha­rass­ment.

The only pro­tec­tion af­forded from dogs is the Horowhenua District Coun­cil’s Dog Con­trol Pol­icy, 2015 which re­quires dogs to be un­der con­trol, and pro­hibits dogs from the bird sanc­tu­ary area. This pol­icy, which is in keep­ing with the Wildlife Pro­tec­tion Act 1953, is not be­ing ad­hered to and is fre­quently com­pletely ig­nored by dog own­ers. The wel­fare of es­tu­ary birds is a key fo­cus for the Manawatu Es­tu­ary Trust. Everyone who en­joys ac­cess to the es­tu­ary’s unique and bio­di­verse her­itage needs to be aware of their guardian­ship re­sponsi- bil­i­ties. The Trust en­cour­ages all dog own­ers to keep their dogs on a leash when near the mud­flats and sand­spits to en­sure the area re­mains a safe haven for the many species that live or visit there.

The Manawatu Es­tu­ary is a wet­land of in­ter­na­tional im­por­tance un­der the Ram­sar Con­ven­tion, giv­ing sanc­tu­ary to sev­eral bird species, both mi­gra­tory and per­ma­nent. The spring equinox in Oc­to­ber will see num­bers of mi­gra­tory birds re­turn to spend the fol­low­ing five months rest­ing, feed­ing and re­gain­ing body weight to pre­pare for their sea­sonal re­turn flight to breed­ing grounds be­yond the Arc­tic Cir­cle. The es­tu­ary’s statu­tory man­agers, the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion, Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil and Horowhenua District Coun­cil, to­gether with the trust, work along­side a num­ber of other in­ter­ested groups, within a frame­work for the preser­va­tion of this spe­cial nat­u­ral her­itage area.


One of a pair of ko­tuku or white herons in flight over mud­flats at the Manawatu Es­tu­ary.

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