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Banding together for the banded dotterel

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Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the Department of Conservation (DOC), and Napier City Council are banding together to protect the endangered Hawke’s Bay’s tūturiwhatu/banded dotterel during their most vulnerable time of year.

Banded dotterel nest along the foreshore of beaches and rivers, with chicks hatching from mid-September onwards. Excellent camouflage is their main defence from predators, and while this ensures they remain well-hidden, it can also mean they are vulnerable to accidental disturbance. 

DOC Senior Community Ranger Chris Wootton says many visitors to the area simply aren’t aware these tiny birds are nesting on the beaches.

“Like many native species, these birds evolved to defend themselves against aerial predators through camouflage,” says Chris. “While they’re great at this, they’re almost defenceless against introduced mammalian predators and human activity like vehicles in beach areas and uncontrolled dogs.

“They’re really vulnerable over the next few months while they’re breeding.”

The Regional Council, DOC, and Napier City Council are working to increase awareness of the vulnerability of dotterel and other nesting shorebirds during the annual breeding season. This will include signage around nesting sites and educating visitors about conservation efforts.

Regional Council Terrestrial Ecologist Annabel Beattie says keeping vehicles away from nesting sites is one way of reducing the likelihood of driving over nests and squashing eggs or chicks.

“Tūturiwhatu are a threatened species, which use the wide shingle beaches between Bay View and Haumoana at this time of year for breeding,” says Annabel Beattie.

"Dog owners need to be aware wandering dogs in coastal areas are a very real threat to nesting shorebirds and other wildlife. Dogs can find and sometimes kill nesting birds or chicks, so keeping dogs on lead is the responsible option.

“The Hawke’s Bay population of tūturiwhatu is extremely significant and we’re lucky to have them here. Recent studies have shown that Hawke’s Bay supports 16% of the global population of this species.

“We’ve seen community groups standing up for these birds over the last couple of months and raising awareness within the community. It is awesome to have passionate members of the community doing such great mahi to protect these beautiful birds, especially as their nests are so easily disturbed but extremely hard to spot.”

Napier City Council Team Leader Parks Reserves and Sportsgrounds Jason Tickner says we’re lucky we have a significant population of dotterel here in Hawke’s Bay.

“Given the national threat status of dotterel it’s important we take every opportunity to protect nesting sites, and not only on coastlines but also braided riverbeds in the district.”

For more information on the banded dotterel and why it’s so important to New Zealand, go to the DOC website.

19 November 2021

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