14th August 2023

Welcome back to the braided river birds.

Even as winter is not done with us yet, we’ve passed the shortest day and the first whiff of spring is not far away.  Inland braided rivers of the Whakatipu provide the breeding habitat for 6 braided river species;

  • Banded dotterel | Tutriwhatu – At-Risk – declining
  • Black-fronted tern | Tarapirohe – Threatened – Endangered
  • Black-billed gull | Tarāpuka– At-Risk – declining
  • South Island Pied Oystercatcher (SIPO) | Tōrea – At-Risk – declining
  • Wrybill | Ngutu parore – Nationally increasing
  • Pied stilt | Poaka – Not Threatened

Juvenile black-fronted tern

     Juvenile Banded Dotterel

These seasonal migrants spend their winters along New Zealand’s coastlines although some of our banded dotterels winter over in Victoria, Australia. All excep wrybill return to the Lower and Upper Kimiakau/Shotover River to breed, arriving from late July to mid-August each year. Wrybill nest on the Dart River at the head of the lake. Some have already sstarted to arrive, seemingly in sync with the rising of Matariki and heralding the change of season.

Braided river birds are adapted to high spring flows and when they arrive, they will gather together, feed to regain strength, pair up and find their nesting territories or colony nesting areas. The first nests can be seen from August to mid-September. The first speckled, camoflauged chicks appear in September of October. they have evolved without mammalian predators. Thier “freeze” response is a great defense against avian hunters, but no defense at all from mammals.

Juvenile Black-billed Gulls

Trapping protects the young of these species before or as they are learning to fly and forage by removing predators like rats, hedgehogs emerging hungry from their hibernation, and stoats. Cats and off-lead dogs, motorbikes and beach combers also pose a serious threat to these birds along with natural predators such as harriers and falcon.

Look for the signs along the rivers that let you know when the birds are nesting and please give them space. If you see or hear them, they’re probably already off their nests or worried about their chicks.

Thanks to KAPOW, Tucker Beach, Shotover Country and the Wakatipu High School groups for trapping the Whakatipu habitats of these species.
If anyone wants to help with monitoring these birds, get in touch.

Posted in: Latest News