A well-meaning Hastings takeaways operator has unwittingly lured a rare breed of feathered friends well out of their safety zone.
Every morning Talwinder Singh Kular has been getting a very special welcome from his own flock of seagulls.
Each day, he's been cooking a scoop of chips and leaving it overnight to cool for his winged patrons.
He said the gulls took over the feeding ground after he started putting food out for sparrows.
But Singh's neighbours, such as Kris Bristow, were not so impressed with the seagulls.
"They park on top of the buildings waiting," the frustrated business and building owner said.
"If you get that crap on your roof, acid eats through eventually, which is why the council spent a lot of money trying to kill all the pigeons."
But these are not your bog standard seagulls. They are tarāpuka, endemic to New Zealand and the world's most endangered seagull.
And their movements around Hawke's Bay have been noticed for some of their unusual choices.
The birds were in the news recently after five were found dead at Rotorua's Sulphur Bay during a routine check by a Department of Conservation volunteer in mid-November last year. Officials believed the gulls were shot.
They were more commonly found in the South Island, breeding inland on shingle riverbeds. But last year, a colony was found breeding in Hawke's Bay.
Their Hawke's bay breeding site was out of character - the Tukituki Rivermouth, exposing them to humans, predators and surf.
Against the odds the colony grew. Soon after fledging early last year, some of the birds began visiting the building across the road from Singh's dairy on Heretaunga St East, where they observed him feeding sparrows.
"I like to do something for the birds," he said. "Before I was just feeding the little birds, but now seagulls are coming in."
The gulls didn't return to the Tukituki Rivermouth to breed, choosing instead a more traditional nesting site, well inland on the Ngaruroro Riverbed, where they were flooded out twice in November.
The devastated flock spied another site at the Westshore Wildlife Reserve, recently created thanks to the new entrance to Hawke's Bay Airport, so the birds relocated yet again, to this man-made site.
"We had all this gravel as part of the building of the road on the other side," Napier City Council Parks Assets Planner Jason Tickner said. "It seems we are getting species here that we haven't seen here before, so we are very happy."
Success for the Westshore colony was about to be declared but the birds mysteriously abandoned their gravel spit for a shore-side berth, leaving them more vulnerable to predators.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council terrestrial ecologist Keiko Hashiba said Singh should stop feeding the gulls.
"They are evolved to be in this [river] environment. They are very capable of feeding themselves. It's not a good idea to feed them," she said.
"Compared with other gulls, black-billed gulls are really shy so they will probably fly away if you are trying to feed them.
Singh, Hastings' own bird whisperer, still feeds his sparrows, but now he does it in the yard at the back of his shop.
Away from the endangered but greedy, beady-eyed gulls.
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