The Department of Conservation is ready for this summer's breeding season for New Zealand's most endangered bird, the tara iti/New Zealand fairy tern, with seven rangers joining the team last month.
They will be based at nesting sites at Waipū and Mangawhai, in Northland, Pakiri and Papakanui, in the Auckland region, until February.
Breeding sites will be monitored during daylight hours seven days a week throughout the season by DoC rangers and trained volunteers.
"Our tara iti/fairy tern rangers, along with trained volunteers, are essential to the survival of the species," DoC biodiversity ranger Ayla Wiles said.
"They keep an eye on the adult birds during breeding and nesting, and monitor chicks.
"Along with doing compliance and public advocacy work, they also keep records of feeding and other behaviour to look at long-term trends in relation to things like fish stocks and weather impacts.
"Last season was fairly successful in terms of chick numbers for us, with seven chicks fledged, the most in recent years. We've also had recent good news with some of the chicks from last season spotted back at the breeding sites, including the chick we supplementary-fed last year. That bird is now making regular appearances at Waipū, and looking very well fed.
"He seems to have been accepted into the tara iti community, and is doing quite well for himself. We don't expect him to breed for at least a couple of years, but are just happy to see him make it through his first winter."
All going well, DoC expected the first eggs to be laid in early summer and chicks to hatch around Christmas/New Year.
Fairy terns/tara iti are critically endangered.
The total fairy tern population numbers fewer than 40 but that is a significant improvement on the three breeding pairs recorded in 1984, when the recovery programme began. Last season, nine breeding pairs produced seven chicks.
The birds once nested on beaches around the North Island coast, but introduced predators, including feral cats, rats, stoats, ferrets and weasels, habitat loss and human disturbance have brought them to the brink of extinction.