Native Watch: Tuturiwhatu pukunui (NZ dotterel)
Welcome to Native Watch! This is the first article of a new series that will introduce you to some of the precious species of flora and fauna that we find in the Bay of Islands.
Read on to find out more about the much-loved New Zealand dotterel. To receive these articles straight to your inbox in our quarterly newsletter, you can sign up to our mailing list here.
Tuturiwhatu pukunui (New Zealand dotterel)
With an estimated population of only 1700 nationally, the vulnerable NZ dotterel nests around the Bay of Islands between September and February. These small shorebirds camouflage well into any coastal backdrop, as do their nests, which are really just a small scrape in the sand, usually on the high tide mark and sometimes protected by driftwood or seaweed. The grey speckled eggs also camouflage beautifully into the beach environment.
The northern NZ dotterel is pale-grey on its head and back, with off-white under parts that flush orange before and during the breeding season. They form post-breeding flocks but pair-off to breed. They eat sandhoppers and other aquatic or terrestrial invertebrates. Their chip-chip call is often heard before they are seen. If they fear their nest being disturbed, the parent may pretend to be injured to lure an intruder away.
The main threats to dotterel are habitat destruction, predation, tidal and storm surges and disturbance from being trampled on. The pest-free islands of Ipipiri help reduce some of these threats.
You can help by looking out for dotterel when walking on the beach, as the nests are very easy to accidentally walk on. It’s best to walk below the high tide mark.
Photos: Gemma Langsdale