Whatever else Ahipara resident Doug Klever got for Christmas it would have struggled to trump the arrival of the season's first New Zealand dotterel chicks last week.

The tiny colony of the endangered birds currently numbers three breeding pairs, Doug said. Two of the pairs had each produced three eggs, every one of them hatching. The third nest held one egg, possibly with more to come.

"Three eggs is the norm, but usually only two chicks survive," Doug said.

"And these ones are early. Last year they started hatching just after Christmas."


The good news had been tempered somewhat, however, by the loss of three of the chicks over recent days. The adults and the remaining chicks seemed to have successfully weathered three days of wet, windy weather, and Doug wasn't sure what had had happened to the others.

"They might have been taken by predators, or killed by dogs, we can't be sure. What we do know is that it wasn't a very high tide that took them away, because we haven't had any," he said.

"It happens every time. It's a hard life for these little birds, but they persevere."

Last year the birds laid 14 eggs between them but only two chicks fledged, the risks to their survival including people/vehicles, predators and dogs.

The nests constitute little more than a scrape in the sand just above the high tide mark, which also makes them susceptible to higher than usual tides.

The entire New Zealand dotterel population is currently estimated at 1700.