Chick boosts tern pop­u­la­tion

The Northland Age - - Local News -

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.

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