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New Zealand Dotterel (Charadrius obscurus)

Contributed by Rosemary Tully of Whakatane Bird Rescue. Photos by Rosemary Tully.

Maori name: Tuturiwhatu pukunui

New Zealand DotterelThe New Zealand dotterel is endemic to New Zealand. It is on the endangered list and there are an estimated 1500 birds.
These birds nest above the high tide mark and lay their eggs in a scrap in the sand. In the photograph to the left is a nest of the New Zealand dotterel.

The nest can easily be trampled on, or disturbed by man. If the nest is left unattended the eggs get cold or overheat in the strong sun, in both cases the chick inside the egg will die. Predators can also take eggs. The main predators being - hedgehogs, stoats, weasels, rats, black-backed gulls, and possums. Very high spring tides and storms can also wipe out the nest.
Once the chicks hatch they are running around on the beach, and feed themselves.

New Zealand DotterelThe hatched chicks are also taken by predators, including being killed by cats and dogs. The parents try their best to keep the chicks safe, acting as a guard; the chick freezes or remains hidden under a log if in danger. To draw the predator away (man in particular) the parent pretends to be injured. In the photograph to the right you can see the parent dotterel feigning an injured wing.

The main breeding time for the New Zealand dotterel is spring and summer, two to three eggs are laid and incubated for around 28 days but it takes six to seven weeks before the chicks fledge (fly). Their diet is aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, they sometimes may take small fish and crabs and also sandhoppers. During winter groups of New Zealand dotterel gather together and sometimes may be seen at Ohiwa spit.
New Zealand DotterelIn the breeding season the parents have a rich red chest, their colours make them very hard to see, but they can be heard cheeping to each other. The photograph to the left shows a New Zealand dotterel chick.

You can help protect these birds by staying below the high tide mark on beaches used for breeding. (Ohiwa spit, Ohope Spit, and some areas of Coastlands and Matata). Do not take four wheeled vehicles or ride horses in these areas. Don't let dogs run free in breeding areas.Don't forget on some beaches dogs are not allowed, such as Ohope spit, Tern Island and any other wildlife sanctuary. Check first with the Dog Control Office at the Whakatane District Council Tel: 306-0500

Related links: Eastern Bay Bird Rescue

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