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Three NZ dotterel chicks hatched at Ahipara

Date:  31 January 2012

Three new arrivals in Ahipara are causing quite a stir in the local community. Long-limbed, petite and very cute, these beach ‘babes’ prefer hanging out at the beach dressed in feathers rather than bikinis.

With fluffy feathers and beaks, Ahipara’s newest celebrities are in fact three newly hatched New Zealand dotterel chicks.

Department of Conservation Ranger, Kylie McDowell says that with only 1700 New Zealand dotterels left in the wild, it is great to have dotterels breeding successfully in Ahipara. However, it’s been a hard road for the two dotterel families at Ahipara, who have lost 18 eggs in the past few years, mainly due to people interfering with nesting sites.

One of the NZ dotterel pairs with their chick.
One of the NZ dotterel pairs with their
chick

“Dotterels nest above the high tide mark, close to river mouths, their homes only a scrape in the sand. The chicks are tiny, cute balls of fluff that learn from an early age to gather food themselves. Their size makes them hard to see when people are walking or driving along the beach,” says Kylie.

Local admirers are very ‘clucky’ over the three chicks with one neighbourhood ‘dotterel watch’ team playing a large part in the success of the chicks hatching. This vigilant group kept a close eye on the two nests over the Christmas and New Year season, making sure no one disturbed the dotterels.

“We noticed that when the dotterels were nesting, and people got too close, the parent would get off the nest to distract them. We let people know to keep their distance, because in the heat of the day, with the parent off the nest there is a real threat that the eggs can cook,” says one local dotterel admirer.

Even local businesses are getting on board celebrating the arrival of the new chicks, with Josh Harvey from Rogers and Rogers Plumbers kindly donating nesting material for the dotterels. The new chicks quickly took up these materials as places to hide when they feel threatened, such as people passing too close to the nesting area, or dogs wandering close-by.

Kylie says people can help support the new families by keeping dogs on a leash when out walking along Ahipara, and by driving below the high tide mark.

“This applies to all beaches in Northland. We are very lucky to have such rare native shorebirds setting up home on our beaches, so by following simple guidelines, we can help safeguard their future,” says Kylie.

And to celebrate this exciting event, DOC in Kaitaia is running a competition to name the three new dotterel chicks. Add your choice of name or vote for your favourite.
Check out the ‘Name the Chick’ competition on the DOC Far North Facebook page