Saturday, July 20, 2024

Dotterels emerge from ‘wild ride’ breeding season

Auckland Council says it’s been a “wild ride” for the city’s threatened New Zealand dotterel population last breeding season as Mother Nature unleashed some powerful weather events.

Of the 172 pairs monitored by volunteers across 61 locations, 74 chicks were fledged giving a regional productivity for the season of 0.43 chicks per monitored pair.

Council’s Senior Conservation Advisor, Ben Paris says the cyclone and other significant storms over the summer had a major effect on the breeding season.

“Just like with people, the immediate impact that comes after a storm strike is often negative,” he said.

“Birds and other animals are adaptable because they’ve evolved in these dynamic coastal landscapes. The new or changed habitat a tropical storm produces can sometimes be beneficial but not in this case.

“So, for at least 74 chicks to make it through though, is very impressive! While some community groups who manage and monitor New Zealand dotterel sites across the region may feel disappointed, it is important to realise these birds do have ‘bad years’.

“On average, most years Auckland hits the average breeding number showing just how effective our dotterel minders are.”

The Department of Conservation’s most recent New Zealand Dotterel Recovery Plan, says management at a site is considered ‘effective’ if productivity averages 0.5 chicks fledged per breeding pair per breeding season (or higher), over a 3-year period or longer.

This was the highest number of monitored breeding pairs we have had reported for a season and the highest number of locations covered. While the numbers might sound notable, it is the lowest productivity rate recorded in Auckland over the past 10 years.

Some of the non-beach breeding sites had more success than usual, not having to deal with the effects of storm surge and overflow from this year’s storm events.

Auckland is a national stronghold for the species with an estimated national population of around 2,600 birds. As the population increases and with added human pressure on our beaches, dotterel pairs are continuing to turn up at new sites around the region, particularly non-beach sites, to nest each season.

Six chicks fledged from the land surrounding the NorthWest Shopping Centre at Westgate, three from the industrial area at Onehunga, and one from the grounds of St Kentigern’s College – highlighting dotterels can show up at all sorts of locations, not just the beach.

The northern NZ dotterel population has gone from a steady decline to nationally increasing and is a true conservation success story – Auckland dotterel minders have played a significant role in their national recovery.

Mr Paris says to make up for last season’s lower productivity, it’s important Aucklanders help give dotterel the best chance they can this coming breeding season.

“We urge people to follow the messaging on dotterel signage and stay away from any fenced areas where they are nesting, follow the relevant dog rules at the beach (check where you can take your dog before you head out), keep your cat inside at night and get involved in a local pest free group,” he said.

Auckland Council is funding a cohort of 20 dotterel minders to attend the Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre dotterel management course in August.

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