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Shore plover breeding on Mana Island

18 January 2008

Shore plover breeding on Mana Island


New Zealand shore plover male, Rangatira Island, Chatham Islands, 1983.
New Zealand shore plover chicks in nest, Rangatira Island, Chatham Islands, 1983. Photos: Colin Miskelly/DOC.

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One of New Zealand’s rarest birds has surprised conservationists by breeding within months of their release on Mana Island, off Wellington’s west coast.

Shore plover, a wading bird found only in New Zealand, do not usually breed until at least two years old, but this pair was less than a year old when they laid. Their two eggs were found on 22 December in a scrape (a depression in the ground) under a log. One of the chicks hatched on 17 January and the nest was being checked again this evening to see whether the other egg had hatched.

The breeding pair were among 41 captive-reared juvenile shore plover moved to Mana Island between March and May 2007. The small flock there is monitored by members of the Ornithological Society and Friends of Mana Island.

Sue Caldwell, a Department of Conservation ranger on Mana Island, said she and her husband Frank Higgott had noticed a pair of shore plover exhibiting territorial behaviour on the island from the beginning of December. Ornithologists observed the birds’ behaviour, but failed to find the nest on a monitoring trip in wet and windy conditions on 19 December. Ms Caldwell returned to the site three days later and found the nest with two eggs being incubated.

“This early breeding is an exciting development, and is an encouraging sign that Mana Island provides suitable habitat for shore plover to establish and build a population,” she said.

“We’re hoping that they’ll be able to thrive on the island. On the mainland the birds are vulnerable to human disturbance and predators.”

Shore plover are small, colourful shorebirds that occurred throughout New Zealand until the mid 1800s. Introduced predators wiped them out on mainland New Zealand, and they were reduced to about 130 birds on Rangatira (South East) Island in the Chatham Islands. Ten pairs are held in captivity, mainly at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre in northern Wairarapa. Young birds produced by the captive flock are released on to predator-free islands as soon as they are old enough to fly.

Shore plover are strong fliers, and colour-banded birds released on Mana Island have been seen on the adjacent mainland at Titahi Bay and Petone Beach. Some have wandered as far as Blenheim and the Manawatu Estuary, and one even flew back to its aviary at Pukaha Mount Bruce. Further releases of juvenile shore plover on Mana Island will begin in February.

ENDS

Find out more about more about New Zealand’s wading birds on the website of Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand

Find out more about Mana Island on the DOC website: www.doc.govt.nz>places to visit>wellington>kapiti

Find out more about Pukaha Mount Bruce on the DOC website: www.doc.govt.nz>places to visit>wellington>wairarapa


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