Spring Bird News

International migrants

Godwit flock at the Weiti chenier roost site

The Bar-tailed godwits or kuaka have returned. These waders breed in Alaska during the brief arctic summer and then fly non-stop back to us to spend the southern summer recovering and preparing for the next breeding season. You can read more at Tracking godwits to understand the migration of birds to New Zealand. We are very lucky to have a regular flock of kuaka spend the summer at local sites. At the moment there are 118 birds in the flock, although this will probably increase over the summer. They seem to prefer the Weiti chenier to Karepiro Beach roosts at the moment, although this can change. The flock can be approached but do so slowly, and if the birds start raising their wings that’s a sign you are close enough. Please don’t walk through the flock and disturb them as this causes them to waste energy flying around rather than putting on fat reserves.

Internal migrants

Karepiro Beach roost site with the remnants of the Variable oystercatcher winter flock and the non-breeding Pied oystercatchers who will spend the summer here

The South Island pied oystercatcher winter flock has now largely dispersed and birds have flown back to their breeding sites on the braided rivers in Hawke’s Bay and the east coast of the South Island. Of the 300 birds that were here this winter only 88 remain. These birds won’t breed this year but will stay in the north. The larger Variable oystercatchers, a group of which can be seen on the left of the picture, are starting to pair off ready to breed around the local coastline.

Breeding Birds

Male Northern NZ dotterel coming into full breeding plumage

No nesting yet but it won’t be too long. The Brown teal/pāteke pair have established themselves on the lagoon at Weiti and will hopefully breed again this year. There are pairs of Variable oystercatchers/tōrea at Weiti, Karepiro and the Okura chenier, although there is no sign of breeding yet. There are 2 pairs of dotterels/tūturiwhata (at least) at both Weiti and Karepiro, and the resident pair on the Okura chenier are back on site. Both sexes colour up as they approach breeding condition but in the males the colour is deeper and more extensive.

It’s a critical time for these birds and disturbance should be kept to a minimum. If a bird runs in front of you and it pretends its got a broken wing and makes lots of noise you are too close to its nest, so follow the bird who will lead you away from its nest or chicks. If the birds get disturbed and leave the eggs or chicks the chances of breeding failure are increased. Dogs are a real danger to breeding success even when they are on a lead. Read more about this at dogs and ground nesting shore birds

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