Six tara iti/fairy tern eggs from Mangawhai Beach are being cared for at Auckland Zoo after they were removed from their nests in anticipation of bad weather.
The Mangawhai eggs, laid by New Zealand's rarest endemic bird, were six of nine in total that were removed across three nesting sites in Northland and Auckland earlier this month to ensure their survival.
A team of Department of Conservation (DoC) rangers monitored the various nesting sites, which included Waipū, from September to January each year. When removed, the eggs were replaced with 3D-printed or wax dummy eggs.
Ranger Shelley Ogle said significant wind and rain created poor conditions for the development of the chick and the safety of the nest.
"With the rain, obviously it's quite cold conditions and the parent needs to be sitting on their eggs and we're watching they don't get left in those conditions long-term," she said.
"The wind will also move sand and because the nest is next to the dunes, the dunes naturally move and they can cover up nests."
Despite eggs also being removed in intense heat, Ogle said it wasn't a common practice and with no removals were necessary last season.
Nevertheless, Ogle said it was a vital measure in preserving the current population.
"Because there are fewer than 40 birds left, we need to do everything that we can to try to protect them and one of those tools is the amazing Auckland Zoo."
The tara iti/fairy tern is nationally critical and despite intensive management, has teetered on the brink of extinction since the 1980s.
Once widespread around the North Island and on the eastern South Island, the New Zealand fairy tern now breeds at only four main nesting sites - Papakanui Spit, Pakiri Beach and Waipū and Mangawhai sandspits.
DoC works closely with Patuharakeke, Ngāti Whāuta o Kaipara, Ngāti Manuhiri and Te Uri O Hau, The Shorebirds Trust, The NZ Fairy Tern Charitable Trust, About Tern, Birds NZ, Armourguard and the Waipū Trapping Group to help protect the New Zealand fairy tern.
How to protect tara iti at their nesting sites:
• Stay out of taped-off or fenced areas and use designated walkways
• Follow dog and vehicle bylaws
• Remove bait and rubbish from the beach to deter rats and other predators