Archives For tuturiwhatu

Whilst many folk are doing their best to be seen on our beaches this summer, some of our more secretive residents are struggling with the crowds.

I’m talking about the NZ dotterel (tuturiwhatu) which nest in sand scrapes on many of our North Island beaches.

NZ dotterel sitting on a simple sand-scrape nest

These birds and their nests are well camouflaged and often invisible to the untrained eye, leaving them vulnerable to disturbance by unwary beachgoers, their dogs and vehicles.

Today I’ve had a report from a member of the public about people walking through the fenced off nesting site at Matakana to relieve themselves and to sit in the sun.

It’s true that sometimes the birds choose to nest in places that are inconvenient to beach users, but in the scheme of things, I’d suggest that the inconvenience of having to walk an extra 100m is a small price to pay for the survival of this species which numbers just 1700 individuals in NZ (and the world!)

A tiny, very sand coloured dotterel chick is easy to miss

and the results can be devastating – this chick was crushed by an unwary motorist

When dotterel adults are disturbed off the nest while incubating, the eggs are at risk of overheating. Young chicks, when disturbed, can die from exhaustion as they cannot eat in time, or get to their feeding grounds at the water’s edge.

Here in Tauranga we have major dotterel nesting sites on Matakana Island and Maketu spit that are protected through the efforts of Ranger Witana and the Port of Tauranga at Matakana and community volunteers at Maketu whom control predators, monitor breeding success and fence off the nesting areas in an effort to protect them from being disturbed.

Birds bred at Matakana last year have recently been seen at beaches around the Coromandel and East Cape.

So as you enjoy the beach this summer, please spare a thought for the shy locals (even if you can’t see them) and give them a little space.

For more information about NZ dotterel, please visit our website.

Blending in with the driftwood