Black-billed gulls are a small gull, more slender than red-billed gulls and with a longer bill
Image: DOC


Tūrangi residents and visitors are being asked to celebrate, but not feed, the threatened black-billed gulls/tarāpuka breeding colony that has settled on rooftops in the town centre.

Date:  19 December 2023

DOC Central Plateau Operations Manager Dave Lumley says the location chosen by the protected birds was a surprise to his team.

“Our staff were out combing the lake edges trying to find the gulls after they were disturbed from a previous location at Motuoapa – then one day they looked up and they’re right outside our office!”

Black-billed gulls are endemic to New Zealand and are listed as ‘at risk – declining’.

“A very small proportion of the black-billed gull population resides around Lake Taupō – we think there’s about 200 individual birds – but with their national population declining dramatically, they are an important flock,” says Dave.

During breeding season, black-billed gulls feed primarily on invertebrates like insects –so humans are urged not to supplement their diet.

“Even though they might look like they want your potato chip, it’s really not good for the birds or their chicks. Please resist the urge to feed them!

“Human food can cause gut issues for all our native birds, so we encourage people to watch birds, not feed them.

“We also want wild birds to stay wild. As much as we are excited to see the gulls in the town centre, we don’t want them to decide this is the place they will always nest because people feed them.”

This season, DOC is conducting a national census of black-billed gulls to help understand the conservation status of the species.

“It’s exciting to have a population on our doorstep during this census year,” says Dave Lumley.

“We anticipate the birds will be around the town centre until mid-January, and hope the Tūrangi community and visitors join us in celebrating these unique gulls – and enjoy them from a safe distance.”

Tarāpuka are absolutely protected under the Wildlife Act 1953.

The Department of Conservation encourages people to be safe and respectful of wildlife, places, and other people this summer.

Background information

  • Black-billed gulls/tarāpuka are endemic to New Zealand and are listed as at risk – declining.
  • Threats to black-billed gulls include predation, habitat loss and disturbance.
  • Ideal nesting sites for black-billed gulls are high points surrounded by water with good visibility in all directions.
  • Lake level fluctuations have made historic nest-sites risky – the gulls have not returned to these. Human settlements exist at many other favourable sites and conflict with people is to be expected.
  • If disturbed while nesting, the gulls will return and continue nesting attempts, extending the length of the breeding season.
  • Tarāpuka are absolutely protected under the Wildlife Act 1953. Anyone who disturbs black-billed gulls and/or their nests can be convicted with penalties ranging from fines up to $100,000 and/or up to two years imprisonment.


For media enquiries contact:


Back to top