Dotterels have a bountiful season


Rare New Zealand dotterels at Whakanewha Regional Park have had twice as much luck raising chicks this year as last year.
Senior ranger Jonah Kitto-Verhoef says 10 chicks were successfully raised by five pairs this breeding season.
“Chick productivity was two chicks per pair this year, compared to one chick per pair for the 2014 to 2015 season, so it has been twice as successful.
“A variety of factors have influenced the breeding season this year, such as climate, food availability, pest densities, disturbance and frequency of storm events,” he says.
In 2013 to 2014, no dotterel chicks were successfully fledged at the park, so numbers appear to be steadily increasing.
The shore birds are classified as threatened and nationally vulnerable, with only about 1700 New Zealand dotterels remaining. This makes them as rare as kokako and North Island brown kiwi.
Dotterels are believed to have attempted to breed this season at various locations around the island, including Woodside Bay, Waimangu Bay, Awaawaroa, Church Bay, Te Matuku, and Pie Melon Bay. However, the levels of breeding success outside the park are not monitored by the park rangers.
Mr Kitto-Verhoef says people can help ensure dotterels are able to continue increasing their numbers at Whakanewha by following the “Dotterel Detour” around the back of the fenced breeding area, particularly during the breeding season from September to March.
“This reduces disturbance to the birds which is important because eggs can become unviable in as little as seven minutes when exposed to wind and sun,” he says.
Visitors are encouraged to be respectful of the dotterels, especially if they start squawking, pretending to have a broken wing, or trying to lead them away. This behavior indicates that dotterels have nests or chicks nearby that can be well camouflaged and are easily destroyed by feet, hooves and tyres.
Rare banded rails have also raised chicks at Whakanewha this spring and summer, along with pied stilts, tui, kereru, fantails, grey warblers, kingfishers, variable oystercatchers, pukeko and moreporks.
“Volunteering for pest control projects around the Island, including Whakanewha Regional Park, is of great value to improve the habitat of all native species on the island,” says Mr Kitto-Verhoef.
Neighbouring residents are asked to be responsible pet owners by keeping cats inside at night if they live within reach of the dotterels.
Dogs are banned from Poukaraka Flats Campground and from the seaward side of Gordons Road, including the pa track, rua loop, Upland Road track, cathedral and Dottie’s lane tracks. • Rose Davis

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