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Chicks good news for threatened species

The population of one of New Zealand’s critically endangered birds, the tara iti or fairy tern, has been boosted by news that two chicks have successfully hatched and there could be more on the way.

The chicks were hatched at Pakiri, North of Auckland and at Mangawhai, near Whangarei.

Fairy Tern Team Ranger at the Department of Conservation (DOC), Ayla Wiles said that with fewer than 40 birds, the tara iti/fairy tern had teetered on the brink of extinction since the 1980s.

“Although it is early days for the chicks and the risks are high, we are hopeful they will continue to do well and fledge later in the summer,” Ms Wiles said.

“This breeding season is looking promising at the moment with more eggs due to hatch in the coming weeks.”

“In the 2018-19 season we had two chicks fledge, and the previous year had five chicks fledge,” she said.

Tara iti/fairy tern nest on shell and sandbanks just above high tide, which leaves them vulnerable to predators and disturbance by people, 4WD vehicles and dogs. They are also at risk from stormy weather and very high tides.

Once widespread around the North Island and on the eastern South Island, the New Zealand fairy tern now frequently breeds at only four nesting sites at Papakanui Spit, Pakiri Beach and Waipu and Mangawhai sandspits. In addition, this year there is a nest at Te Arai.

The New Zealand Fairy Tern Charitable Trust has been awarded $20,000 from the DOC Community Fund to increase its trapping operations to protect the tara iti/fairy tern at Waipu.