It's a promising start for the fairy tern breeding season after two chicks – one at Mangawhai and the other at Pakiri – successfully hatched last week.

Rangers from the Department of Conservation have been watching the critically endangered birds closely for the past few months to ensure breeding conditions are ideal and on Thursday their efforts paid off.

"This breeding season is looking promising at the moment with more eggs due to hatch in the coming weeks. Last year, we had two chicks fledge, and the previous year we had five," said Ayla Wiles, DoC fairy tern team ranger.

Fairy Tern pair Mr and Mrs Red mating at Mangawhai beach. Photo / Darren Markin, DoC
Fairy Tern pair Mr and Mrs Red mating at Mangawhai beach. Photo / Darren Markin, DoC

"Although it is early days for the chicks and the risks are high, we are hopeful they will continue to do well and fledge later in summer."

Advertisement

Both sets of parents are doing a great job looking after their new chicks, which at this stage involves sourcing small fish to feed them.

The team of six rangers and numerous community volunteers are now on constant predator control watch to try to keep at bay cats, hedgehogs and gulls, who threaten mortal danger to the fairy terns and their vulnerable offspring.

The nesting sites have also been fenced off to protect the birds from humans and their vehicles.

New Zealand's fairy terns are critically endangered with fewer than 40 birds left. Photo / Darren Markin, DoC
New Zealand's fairy terns are critically endangered with fewer than 40 birds left. Photo / Darren Markin, DoC

Fairy terns nest on shell and sandbanks just above high tide, which leaves them exposed to predators and disturbance by people. They are also at risk from stormy weather and very high tides.

Once widespread around the North Island and on the eastern South Island, the fairy tern now breeds at only four nesting sites - Papakanui Spit, Pakiri Beach and the Waipū and Mangawhai sandspits. There's one additional nest at Te Arai this year.

New Zealand Fairy Tern Charitable Trust has recently been awarded $20,000 from the DoC Community Fund to improve their trapping at Waipū.

READ MORE:
Northland group to pull fairy terns back from brink of extinction
Season's greetings - first fairy tern chick hatched in Northland

DoC reminds beach-goers to stay out of taped off areas and use designated walkways instead.

Advertisement

Dogs, vehicles, horses and drones are not to be taken closer to the nesting areas.

DoC also asks people to remove used bait, fish and rubbish from the beach to deter rats and other predators.