Did you know 16% of the world’s population of Pohowera (Banded Dotterels) are found here in Hawke’s Bay?

For the first time, last year a group of volunteers and keen birders set up the Save the Dotterel’s group to monitor 1.5 km of Hawke Bay beach front from the northern end of The Esplanade at Westshore to beach front adjacent to the Rotary pathway spanning from the end of Ferguson Street at Bayview. 

Keen birder and member of Birds NZ Lynne Anderson says the dotterels have chosen to use the wide shingle beach in this area as a breeding site. “They arrive in July from winter feeding grounds and remain to breed into the following February – many pairs will nest twice in one season especially if the first nest failed.” 

Lynne says local residents had observed a significant decline in the birds over the last few years and initiated this community exercise in partnership with Napier City Council and Forest and Bird.

All shore-nesting birds in New Zealand are under threat, Lynne says. Pohowera are endemic breeders to New Zealand and their national conservation status is “At Risk, Declining” or “Nationally and Regionally Vulnerable”.

Part of the problem is that the adults, their eggs and chicks, are very well camouflaged and therefore highly likely to be disturbed or destroyed by human activity. They not only need to cope with native predators such as black backed gulls, harrier hawks and NZ falcons; and introduced predators such as rats, mice, cats, dogs, stoats, hedgehogs and magpies; but also humans and vehicles on the beach. 

The Save the Dotterel’s group gathered baseline data on the number of dotterels nesting and successfully raising chicks to fledging in the monitored area. They looked at the impact of fencing both permanent and additional temporary fencing erected around nests. Volunteers wearing bright orange printed vests were able to distribute printed leaflets, speak to passers-by and explain what all the signs and fences were about encouraging and engendering support. 

“This study will inadvertently help all shore nesting birds in NZ,” says Lynne, “not just this one species. If people are more aware that many NZ endemic birds nest on our coasts they may be more inclined to respect and be more thoughtful about beach activities.”

Monitoring took place by a team of 14 volunteers between July 2022 to February 2023.

A total of 59 eggs were confirmed in identified nests. “From 31 nests (23 identified + 8 unidentified) we can predict about 90 eggs were laid, usually three per nest,” says Lynne.

“We are extremely grateful to Napier City Council for erecting the 300m long fence within the monitored area to help protect these birds. There were six identified nests within the fence and at least three unidentified. While there was no clear evidence of a difference between nesting and survival rates within and outside the fence, it was very effective in raising public awareness and reducing the vehicle use of the shingle bank along the whole length of the beach.” 

Overall, it was thought that fence had been a great success and the observers were even starting to think that the birds were using it as a haven. It had been observed that prior to the NCC fence being built, this area would have few if any nests as quad bikes used to frequently cover the whole area. (Unfortunately, Cyclone Gabrielle caused damage to the seaward side of the fence with large logs thrown up onto it – although no wires were broken, several posts were on a lean.)

Save the Dotterels is planning beach cleans, workshops for volunteers  and more monitoring of the birds later in the year. Anyone interested contact the napier.branch@forestand bird.org.nz

Learn more about banded dotterel’s here:

https://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/banded-dotterel

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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3 Comments

  1. As a concerned dog owner I would like to know if the dunes area of Ocean Beach is a nesting area for banded dotterel and other coastal birds.

  2. Kia ora Kay
    In response to your question above: I am aware that NZ Dotterels (tūturiwhatu) -even more endangered in Hawke’s Bay than banded dotterels – are known to nest towards the Cape Kidnappers end of Ocean Beach. This was documented in a very comprehensive survey report of Indigenous Coastal Birds commissioned by HBRC in 2021 and conducted by ornithologist Nikki McArthur. The NZ dotterels (tūturiwhatu) prefer sandy beaches compared to the banded dotterels (pohowera) that usually nest on the gravelly beaches and up some of the braided rivers.

  3. There are many Banded Dotterels along the shingle alongside SH 51. From time to time, I sit and watch and often photograph them. However, every weekend and sometimes during the week, motorbikes scream up and down along the shingle with no understanding of what damage they are doing. I wonder if a fence could be erected to give these birds some protection and keep people, dogs and bikes out. The particular area where the birds seem to breed is close to a car parking area and it also appears to be a dog roaming area. The beach area near Bayview has a fenced area to protect these beautiful birds. Please erect one on this beach too.

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