Tūrangi gulls are short-term visitors
IntroductionTūrangi has welcomed a different kind of visitor to its town centre this summer, with endangered black-billed gulls/tarāpuka breeding on the rooftops – but DOC staff say the birds’ residency won’t last.
Date: 23 January 2024
Approximately 150 adults, with 40-60 fluffy chicks, have made Tūrangi town centre their home for the summer breeding season after being disturbed from an area in Motuoapa where they have bred in the past.
Department of Conservation Senior Ranger Sarah Tunnicliffe says there have been mixed reviews of the tarāpuka from the community.
“Not everyone is pleased with the poop, and the noise, but most people understand it’s a short-term inconvenience.”
The chicks are quite mobile, and several have fallen from the roof.
“Staff at the local bookshop and New Zealand Post branch had a surprise when a wee tarāpuka chick wandered in. It’s now in care and doing well.
“We ask anyone coming across a gull chick in the town centre to leave it alone and inform DOC –
- either at the office or
- call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).”
The fluffy, mottled grey chicks grow quickly, and the colony is likely to be finished its breeding season by late January.
“We appreciate the patience and support shown by shop owners, locals, and visitors.”
“Although we hope the breeding this year is successful, we’ll be asking the community to help us deter the colony from nesting in the town centre again next year – we will share some strategies prior to the next breeding season.
“For now, the best way to help is not to feed them, which might encourage them to come back.”
Tarāpuka are only found in New Zealand and the Taupō population is one of the few colonies in the North Island.
Taupō tarāpuka disperse around the lake outside breeding season, congregating in late spring to breed.
Black-billed gulls are an absolutely protected species under the Wildlife Act 1953, and even DOC is limited in the actions it can take once the birds establish their nests.
- 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.
- 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.
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