First fairy tern eggs of sea­son laid

Whangarei Report - - FRONT PAGE -

One of New Zealand’s rarest birds has sur­prised Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion rangers by pro­duc­ing eggs in Oc­to­ber, a lit­tle ear­lier than usual.

With a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of ap­prox­i­mately 40 birds, the New Zealand fairy tern — or tara-iti — is crit­i­cally en­dan­gered and has teetered on the brink of ex­tinc­tion since the 1970s.

A ded­i­cated pro­tec­tion ef­fort has seen the species breed just suc­cess­fully enough each sea­son to keep its pre­car­i­ous num­bers con­stant.

“Our fairy tern team has been pre­par­ing for the breed­ing sea­son for a few months and we are thrilled to have eggs in nests,” said DOC fairy tern team ranger Ayla Wiles. “One of the ear­lier nests was lost early on, but three re­main. We are hope­ful the nests will be suc­cess­ful and the chicks will fledge by Christ­mas.”

Fairy tern nests are made in shal­low scrapes on shell and sand banks just above high tide which leaves them vul­ner­a­ble to preda­tors, dis­tur­bance by peo­ple, 4WD ve­hi­cles and dogs. They are also at risk from stormy weather and very high tides.

“There are three pairs of fairy tern with ac­tive nests which have one or two eggs each,” Wiles said. “The par­ents take turns sit­ting on the egg for about an hour at a time and will do this 24/7 un­til the chick hatches in early Novem­ber.” A ded­i­cated team of five fairy tern DOC rangers have been busy since Septem­ber trap­ping preda­tors near nest­ing sites and pre­vent­ing nest­ing birds from be­ing dis­turbed by hu­mans.

Once wide­spread around the North Is­land and on the eastern South Is­land, the small bird now breeds at only four nest­ing sites: Pakiri Beach, Waipu and Man­gawhai sand­spits in North­land and Pa­pakanui Spit, near the south head of the Kaipara Har­bour.

DOC works closely with hapu Patuharakeke and Te Uri O Hau, Te Arai and Man­gawhai Shore­birds Trust, NZ Fairy Tern Char­i­ta­ble Trust, About Tern, Birds NZ, Ar­mour­guard and the Waipu Trap­ping Group to help pro­tect the fairy tern.

Beach­go­ers are asked to also help by stay­ing out of fenced ar­eas and us­ing des­ig­nated walk­ways, avoid shore­bird nests and chicks, keep­ing dogs on leads, re­mov­ing bait, fish and rub­bish to de­ter preda­tors and run­ning ve­hi­cles be­low the high-tide mark.

If peo­ple walk­ing a sand­spit are chased, squawked at, or if a bird is on the ground pre­tend­ing to be in­jured, they are too close to a nest. No dogs or ve­hi­cles are al­lowed in wildlife refuges and re­serves, and dis­tur­bance of wildlife is an of­fence.

PHOTO / DOC

To de­ter preda­tors, a fairy tern re­moves the egg a chick has hatched from.

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