While I was at Te Arai Reserve I was interested to learn
about all these residents that share the environment with me...
And amazed as I read about them all that I knew so little
about them... And that most of them are endangered or rare
and protected. I will look with renewed interest at all the
birds next time I am at the beach... There is a very
detailed information board, the rest I found out on-line.
I hope you enjoy and learn and look next time you
are exploring the beaches, estuaries and river beds.
The Fairy Tern
Northern New Zealand Dotterel
New Zealand Banded Dotterel... and eggs.
Endemic to New Zealand it is a protected bird and nationally vulnerable..
They are found throughout all of New Zealand, their
population is 50,000 and declining.
The photo above shows the adult mating plumage.
They are the most common small plover of New Zealand
seashores, estuaries and river beds.
They are often seen in solitary pairs... Running along the beach.
They lay 3 eggs in shallow scrapes in gravel or sand.
They are very vulnerable and threatened by introduced mammalian
predators which prey on most eggs that are laid and chicks,
juveniles and adults... Most seriously impacted by feral cats,
mustelids (ferrets, stoats, weasels), rats and hedgehogs.
Habitat loss and human activities have also contributed
to displacement at breeding sites.
The Shore Skink
The Auckland Green Gecko or Nautilus Genus...
It is threatened by habitat loss, predators, human disturbance
and storms. An average of 145mm long, weighs 11 grams.
This New Zealand species of lizard is unusual...
It is viviparous... Gives birth to live young instead
of laying eggs.
The Australasian Bittern...
A wetland bird that is declining in numbers because
of wetland drainage for grazing also salination and contamination
by farm run-off of water quality. They are extremely cryptic and rarely seen...
Due to their secretive behaviour, inconspicuous plumage and
inaccessibility of their habitat. When caught in the open they adopt
their famous 'freeze' stance. Even with their head
stretched upwards their eyes can look down to spot eels, fish or frogs.
They are heard rather that seen. The male makes a loud distinctive
'boom' sound, each call sequence ranging from 1-10 'booms' per sequence.
The female is largely silent apart from producing a 'bubbling'
sound when returning to the nest.
The Caspian Tern... Substantially the largest of the terns. Grows to
51cm long, 700grams with a wing span of 1 meter. In the breeding
season their black cap which is usually to below their eyes,
tapers to a fine point above an orange/pink bill. They feed by plunging
for surface feeding fish. Their chief threat is the black backed
gulls which eat their eggs and chicks, people, introduced mammalian
predators - dogs, cats, stoats, rats, ferrets...
And off road vehicles in the dunes.
The Pied Shag... Is classified as vulnerable and a protected native.
It is found at the Te Arai stream where they wash and fish.
It's a coastal species and rarely goes more than a kilometer inland.
Often seen on low hanging branches or standing on the sand drying
their outstretched wings. They dive to a depth of 20 meters for 20-30
seconds to catch bottom feeding fish.
They breed mainly in the north of New Zealand,
lay 3-4 eggs which are incubated by both parents for 25-33 days,
fledge between 47-60 days but continue to be fed by both parents
for 11 weeks after that. The chicks feed by thrusting their head
into the parents throat pouch takingout of the cache of fish there.
They grow to 81 cm and 2 kilograms.
The White Fronted Tern... The most common tern of the New Zealand
coastline. Seen in flocks of 100's or 1000's. Never far from the coast.
White fronted refers to the this strip of white that separates the black
cap from the black bill. It has a beautiful forked tail that decreases in
length outside the breeding season. Numbers have declined
markedly over the last 40 years and they are regarded as a threatened species.
They breed in ephemeral sites such as river beds, estuaries or river mouths
so are threatened by frequent flooding...
Also by introduced mammalian predators - rats, stoats, ferrets, cats.
They nest adjacent to red-bill gull colonies, these male birds specalise in preying
on the eggs and chicks of terns. They lay usually one egg on bare ground.
Pair-bonds are retained from one season to the next.
Black Billed Gull... And baby
This species has undergone a rapid decline over the last 3 generations...
Adult breeding birds by 90% in the last 2 generations
and is classified as endangered. 78% of the population breeds
in the South Island mostly in the braided river systems.
The numbers are increasing in the North Island where it breeds on
sand-spits, shell banks, lake margins and river flats, but the
colonies are small and do not offset the South Island declines.
Breeding can begin at 2 years but mostly at 6 years, they may live
for over 30 years. Threats are brown rats that take eggs and
chicks in the North Island... Remote video cameras in the South Island
show that mustelids and feral cats take 1000's of chicks in a season.
The Grey Duck... Is endemic to New Zealand. It lives in shallow
wetlands, fresh water streams, saline or brackish estuaries.
Eats seeds, worms, larvae, aquatic invertebrate including insects.
They lay 4-9 eggs on the ground in long vegetation.
The eggs are incubated for about 26 days.
After 5 days the male leaves to re-mate.
Their main predator is humans. They are considered
endangered. They grey duck is similar to a female mallard duck
in appearance and most now show signs of hybridisation
with mallards. Until 1960 grey ducks made up 95% of New
Zealand's dabbling duck population but now are estimated to
number only 500,000. There are 5 million mallards!