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People asked to look out for dotterel nesting sites

People enjoying the outdoors this summer are being asked to keep a lookout for New Zealand dotterel nesting sites.

Endemic to the country, the New Zealand dotterel is endangered with around 2075 birds left, according to the latest estimates.

The New Zealand dotterel is a familiar sight on the sandy east coast beaches in the northern North Island, but is sparsely distributed around much of the rest of the country.

“We're asking people to avoid nesting sites, give the birds space and keep an eye on dogs since many of the birds are now nesting with chicks and are at risk of being disturbed,” Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Jamie Quirk said.

The NZ dotterel breeding season runs from September through to February. In these months they can be found nesting in coastal areas, anywhere from the high tide mark to the base of dunes, on riverbeds and at the mouths of streams.

Mr Quirk said the birds lay two or three eggs in nests made from beach scraps, and are good at camouflaging.

The dotterel have mostly pale-grey/brown on their back with an off-white under which becomes a rusty-orange colour in winter and spring. The males are generally darker than the females and have a prominent head, large dark-brown eyes, yellowish to pale-grey legs and a strong black bill.

Mr Quirk said the birds have well-camouflaged nests that hold the eggs. The nests are vulnerable to being found by dogs, trampled on by people or being run over by cars or quad bikes.

The Gisborne District Council, along with DoC, is calling on the community to maintain a cautious watch to help protect the endangered birds.

DoC says make sure to keep below the high tide marks, maintain distance from the nests, marked tracks and paths, keep dogs on a leash and avoid parking vehicles on beaches and sandpits.

DOTTEREL ALERT: Beachgoers are being warned to take care in coastal areas as this is the optimum time for the New Zealand dotterel to nest. The native, endangered birds are very good at camouflaging their nests which can be found anywhere from the high tide mark to the base of the dunes, on riverbeds and at the mouths of streams. Inset, a dotterel nest complete with two eggs. Picture by Isabella Clere
Camouflage nest made from scraps with 2 eggs. Photo by Prue Bell
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The northern New Zealand dotterel breeds around the North Island. Coastal development and human recreational activities on beaches are having a growing impact on the northern subspecies. Picture by Neil Fitzgerald