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Dotterel chicks die after eggs removed from nest

4 November, 2004

Dotterel chicks die after eggs removed from nest

The recent deaths of three threatened banded dotterel chicks, after their eggs were removed from a nest on a Wellington beach, has prompted a renewed call to respect our wild city neighbours.

The Department of Conservation and Native Bird Rescue Wellington Trust have urged people to respect the habitats of regionally-threatened native shorebirds such as banded dotterel and variable oystercatchers after a well-meaning person removed eggs from what he thought was an abandoned nest on the Pencarrow coastline late last month.

Discovering the three tiny eggs in a gravel scrape, seemingly abandoned by their parents, he took them home and put them in a hot water cupboard overnight, arranging for a hen to sit on them the following day. One of the chicks had hatched, and another egg had pipped (been cracked by the chick inside) by the time the incident was brought to the attention of the trust and DOC. The chick inside the third egg was dead.

“I tried to save the other chicks but it was a pretty futile task,” trust bird rehabilitator Karin Wiley said.

“These chicks learn their important tasks, such as feeding, reacting to danger and relating to other birds, from cues from their parents. Without these they stood little chance of surviving, despite being given food and warmth.”

She said if the person who found the eggs had looked around he would have seen the parents trying to distract them. Banded dotterels employ various tactics to distract potential predators from their eggs, including feigning injury.

“If you see eggs on the beach, please leave them alone,” she urged.

“If you are not sure what to do ring DOC or the SPCA. It’s very distressing to lose rare native birds in this way.”

DOC biodiversity programme manager Rob Stone said human handling and intervention reduced the chances of chicks surviving.

“If people want to continue seeing native wildlife on their beaches they need to be careful not to ruin their chances of breeding.

“Shore birds do nest in a vulnerable location but they’ve been doing this since before we arrived. We need to protect their nests by leaving the eggs alone, not riding motorbikes on beaches, and keeping our dogs on leads.”

ENDS

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