Nature & Wildlife

The New Zealand Dotterel is an endangered species found only in this country. It was once widespread and common but now there are only about 1500 left.

Numbers are down because of habitat loss, introduced predators and disturbance at breeding time.

The New Zealand dotterel is now rarer than the well known Kokako and yellow-eyed penguin. New Zealand dotterel are shore birds, largely pale grey-brown on the head and back, with off-white underparts which become flushed with rusty orange in winter and spring.

The prominent head, large dark eye and strong black bill are quite distinctive and the bird's habit of running quickly and pausing while feeding make it easy to identify. The birds are hard to see because of their camouflage colours but their distinctive chip-chip call is often heard before they are seen.

Home for the nothern population of New Zealand dotterel is the coastline of the North Island from Kawhia in the west, north to Te Paki and around and down the east coast towards the Mahia Peninsula.

A small group of New Zealand dotterel make their home on the sandspit at the Northern end of Whangapoua Beach. In recent years the area has been fenced off during the nesting season to try to protect the birds.

Pairs defend their territories aggressively while breeding but this does not make the nests any easier to see! The birds nest above the high tide line to give them a clear view all around to watch for predators.

Nests are just a shallow scrape in the sand with eggs the colour of wet sand, providing great camouflage. Because they are so hard to see, nest are sometimes crushed by people, vehicles, horses or stock.

Nests usually contain three eggs and pairs may nest up to four times if a clutch is lost.

You can help!

People, their pets and vehicles pose a major threat to the New Zealand dotterel.

Please stay out of fenced-off areas, watch out for the "Birds Nesting" signs and keep dogs, vehicles and boats off beaches and sandspits when dotterel are present, particularly at nesting time between September and February.

If you see a New Zealand dotterel feigning injury, it has a nest or chicks nearby. Please move from the area quickly - birds will not return to incubate until you have gone and eggs can overheat or become chilled quickly.

For more information contact:

Department of Conservation
Hauraki Area Office
PO Box 343
438 Pollen Street

Ph: 07 867 9185