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New Zealand dotterels are endemic to New Zealand, which means they are only found in the wild in New Zealand.
New Zealand dotterels used to be common around many areas of New Zealand, but they are now an endangered species, and are only found in a few places. There are less New Zealand dotterels than there are kokako or yellow-eyed penguins.
New Zealand dotterels are known as 'shorebirds' because they spend most of their time at the beach and around the seashore. They do not spend much time in forests or cities.
The Maori name for New Zealand dotterel is tuturiwhatu pukunui.
The scientific name for the New Zealand dotterel is Charadrius obscurus.
There are two types of New Zealand dotterel - Northern and Southern.
Southern New Zealand dotterel
The Southern New Zealand dotterel is only found on Stewart Island. It nests on the ground on mountain tops. There are only about 60 Southern New Zealand dotterels. Because they are so rare the Department of Conservation employs people especially to look after them.
Northern New Zealand dotterel
Northern NZ dotterel are found around the coast in the Waikato, Auckland and Northland regions. In the year 2000 there were only about 1300 Northern NZ dotterels. There are more Northern NZ dotterel than Southern NZ dotterel, but they are still endangered. And because of people and predators the population is going down each year.
Northern NZ dotterel nest on beaches above the high tide mark. Their nests are not made of twigs and moss like nests in trees, but are just a shallow hole dug into the sand.
Parent birds lay eggs in the spring and summer, between October and early January. Chicks hatch 28 days after the eggs have been laid. Because nests are on the ground the chicks have strong legs and can walk the day they hatch. When they are young they are very small and look like fluffy bumblebees with long legs. They can usually fly within 6-8 weeks.
New Zealand dotterel eggs and the chicks are the same colour as the sand around them and are very hard to see. This protects them from bigger birds (such as Black Backed Gulls) that eat eggs and young chicks. But being well-camouflaged also makes it easy for people to accidentally stand on nests or drive over them.
Why are Northern New Zealand dotterel endangered?
Northern New Zealand dotterel are endangered because:
• Many beaches dotterel used to nest on have been built over by houses, motorways, jetties and wharves.
• Introduced predators (such as cats, stoats, ferrets, hedgehogs and rats) eat many eggs and chicks. This means that there are less and less adult birds.
• People disturb the breeding dotterel or destroy the nests.
Thanks to 'Shorebirds of New Zealand'. By Brian Chudleigh
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