Seabird breeding Season – October to March


Dotterel (Linda Coster)

The seaward chenier at Stillwater is the breeding site of three, nationally vulnerable, birds – New Zealand Dotterel, variable oystercatcher and brown teal.  All three are endemic to New Zealand and are found nowhere else, and all three nest on the ground.  Nesting is about to start (generally by the end of October/start of November) and both nests and young are vulnerable to predation.  Natural predators include hedgehogs, rats, stoats and weasels, feral cats and gulls.  These pests are controlled on the chenier by the efforts of volunteers who regularly check and reset traps.  Dogs are a real problem at nesting time and one unleashed dog can destroy a season’s breeding in an instant by eating eggs and killing young.  Even leashed dogs have been shown to unsettle adults who leave the nest increasing the likelihood of predation by gulls or chilling/overheating of eggs as they are exposed to the elements. 

The cheniers are also roosting sites for wading birds who rest up when the tide is high and they cannot feed on the mudflats.  At the moment there are 170 godwits and 45 oystercatchers roosting there. Please don’t disturb them as they need to rest and convert food into fat reserves to help them reach migrating condition by March when they fly off to Alaska to breed.  Dogs chasing them or people walking through the flock cause them to fly around burning up food rather than storing it. 

This is why no dogs are allowed on the Stillwater cheniers, at Karepiro Beach or the shell bank at Okura.  Even small numbers of irresponsible dog owners will cause these toanga to disappear, and another biodiverse Auckland environment will be trashed and degraded.

We are aware that many dog owners enjoy the beautiful surroundings (and keep themselves and their dogs fit) by walking along sections of the Okura Bush Walk, but a special request to choose other options and avoid these sensitive breeding areas during the breeding season (end of October to end of March).
We have also observed people approaching nesting birds to take photos – this may be equally disturbing to the birds. Please keep your distance: if you approach them do so quietly and slowly.  If they raise their wings they are alarmed so you should back off a bit.   

–Bernard Michaux

Call to action: If you see people behaving inappropriately, please have a polite word with them and refer them to the FoOB website.

Breeding areas to avoid

Seabird breeding areas to avoid

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