Chick boosts tern population
The population of one of New Zealand’s rarest birds, the New Zealand fairy tern (tara-iti), has been boosted by one with the hatching of a chick at Pakiri, north of Auckland.
With a total population of about 40, the fairy tern is critically endangered, and has been teetering on the brink of extinction since the 1970s.
“Although it is early days for the chick, and the risks are high, we are hopeful he or she will continue to do well and fledge later in summer,” DoC’s technical adviser threats Tony Beauchamp said.
“This breeding season has been disrupted by a higher number of lows across the central Tasman that have delivered repeated high wind events. Last year we had five chicks fledge, but we are likely to have fewer this year.”
Fairy terns nest on shell and sand banks just above high tide, making them vulnerable to rats, stoats and other predators, disturbance by people, vehicles and dogs. They are also at risk from storms and high tides.
“The birds cannot be transported to predatorfree offshore islands because they are very particular about where they nest, and the chicks are not raised in captivity, as they are looked after by their parents while they learn how to fish,” Mr Beauchamp said.
A dedicated team of four fairy tern DoC rangers had 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 the eastern South Island, the New Zealand fairy tern now breeds at only four sites — Papakanui Spit, Pakiri Beach, the Waipu and Mangawhai sandspits — where DoC works closely with the Te Arai and Mangawhai Shorebirds Trust, the NZ Fairy Tern Charitable Trust, About Tern, Birds NZ, ENL, the Waipu Trapping Group, the Ornithological Society of New Zealand and Te Uri o Hau to help protect them.
The public can help by staying out of fenced areas and using designated walkways, avoiding shorebird nests and chicks, keeping dogs on leads, removing bait, fish and rubbish to deter predators, and keeping vehicles below the high tide mark.
Anyone who was chased, squawked at, or saw a bird on the ground pretending to be injured, would be too close to a nest. Anyone who finds a nest should not touch it; the parents will be close.
One of last year’s fairy tern chicks at Pakiri; this season is not expected to be as successful.