First fairy tern egg for breeding season sparks concerns from DOC

While the first egg from New Zealand’s rarest endemic bird is good news, Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers have expressed concern about some behaviour that occurred at another breeding site at the same time the egg was discovered.

“Last weekend we came across a vehicle with occupant and dog parked in the dunes at the base of the wildlife refuge at Mangawhai. The person had breached the COVID-19 Alert Level 3 border restriction to enter the area and had got her vehicle stuck in the soft sand and had to stay overnight,” says Craig Deal, DOC Whangarei Operations Manager.

“She was escorted out of the reserve and police were notified. This will also be followed up with our DOC compliance officers for entering a wildlife refuge (breaching the Northland reserves bylaws) with a vehicle and a dog. Both are prohibited and may result in a $800.00 infringement notice.

“It’s concerning to see such a blatant breach of wildlife refuge and COVID-19 border rules, especially with the tara iti/fairy tern breeding season just starting.”

With fewer than 40 birds, the tara iti/fairy tern is nationally critical and despite intensive management has teetered on the brink of extinction since the 1980s.

Tara iti/fairy terns nest on shell and sand banks, sometimes just above spring high tide mark. This leaves them vulnerable to stormy weather that coincides with very high tides and strong winds.

Tara iti are also vulnerable to predation and disturbance by people and vehicles, so all nest sites are fenced off.

A dedicated team of seven tara iti focussed DOC rangers and numerous community organizations and volunteers have been busy since September trapping for predators near nesting sites, fencing off nesting sites and preventing nesting birds from being disturbed by humans. These rangers and volunteers will continue to monitor the birds and nests during the breeding season.

Once widespread around the North Island and eastern South Island, tara iti now breed at only four main nesting sites. These are found at Papakānui Spit, Pākiri Beach, and Waipū and Mangawhai sandspits.

DOC works closely with Patuharakeke, Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara, Ngāti Manuhiri, Ngātiwai and Te Uri O Hau, The Shorebirds Trust, The NZ Fairy Tern Charitable Trust, About Tern, Birds NZ, Armourguard and the Waipū Trapping Group to help protect the New Zealand fairy tern.

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