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Banded dotterel make a comeback in the Wellington Region

While some of our precious native coastal birds are declining, a survey of 460 kilometres of coastline highlights how banded dotterel are thriving in the Wellington region.

Greater Wellington Regional Council have gathered the results of a region-wide coastal bird survey carried out in 2017-18 which shows patterns in the distribution and abundance of coastal birds in our region.

The survey, mandated by Maritime New Zealand, saw Wildlife Management International’s Nikki MacArthur and Samantha Ray walk the region’s coastline. With the help of the Department of Conservation and the Greater Wellington Harbours Team, surveys were also done around the off-shore islands.

Greater Wellington Senior Environmental Scientist Roger Uys says things are looking up for the banded dotterel.

“While the species is nationally and regionally vulnerable, a total of 346 adult banded dotterels were counted during this survey, occupying 58 of the 460 one kilometre sections of coastline surveyed.”

Roger says a number of estuaries and river mouths supported local concentrations of banded dotterels including the Waitohu and Otaki Estuaries on the west coast, and the Opouawe and Waihingaia River mouths on the east coast.

“Local concentrations were also encountered along several stretches of relatively wide shingle or sandy beach, including the Wellington south coast, Fitzroy Bay, Onoke Spit and Riversdale Beach.”

Recent surveys have shown that 344 banded dotterels occupy braided river habitats in the Wairarapa, while a further 38-45 occupy the lower Otaki River.

“By combining the results of three recent surveys, we can estimate the Wellington region supports a breeding population of 728 banded dotterels.”

Sixty-nine bird species were identified during this survey, 51 of which are native or endemic to New Zealand with 25 of those ranked as either Nationally Threatened or At Risk under the New Zealand Threat Classification System.

Greater Wellington Environment Committee Chair Penny Gaylor says there are some simple things people could do to help prevent the loss of our precious coastal birds.

“This includes not driving on beaches in significant bird areas, and supporting predator control across the region.

“There was recently an incident at the northern end of Otaki beach where a banded dotterel nest was disturbed by people on motorbikes – as a consequence of this, there were three eggs lost.

“The report provides Council with an abundance of valuable information and will now be used to review the schedule of Coastal Habitats of Significance for Indigenous Birds in the Natural Resources Plan, as well as to plan and prepare for the risk of marine oil spill,” Cr Gaylor says.

The survey has provided a better idea of sensitive areas along the coastline and if there is a significant oil spill, Council will know what sort of wildlife is in each area and where the biggest risks are.

Roger says the survey did not pick up on penguin numbers so that is now his next focus.

“We are working with local penguin experts and the Department of Conservation to try identify where penguins occur in the region. There are potentially 700 to 1000 penguins around our coastline and we would like to get a better idea of their location and numbers.”


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