A decade-long project has restored a rare native bird population in Hawke's Bay.

A 1km area in Ouepoto Reserve at Aramoana Beach is taped off by Department of Conservation (DoC) staff between September and April every year to protect the New Zealand dotterel, an endangered sandy-brown wading bird.

DoC Hawke's Bay biodiversity coastal marine compliance ranger Rod Hansen said they started the project after a bach owner observed several of the birds nesting on the beach in Aramoana 10 years ago.

"It's rarer than the kokako or the kiwi," he said.


The New Zealand dotterel is vulnerable to predators as well as human foot traffic, dogs and motorbikes because it nests on the sand and lays small eggs that look like bumble bees when they hatch.

Tape and signs have been put up during breeding season for the last 10 years with remarkable results, Mr Hansen said.

New Zealand dotterel numbers have increased so much that the birds have started nesting further north and south along the coast.

Last year DoC taped off a section of coast in Pourerere and will continue to do so because New Zealand dotterel had started nesting there, he said.

"It's a breeding success story...I never imaged it would be so successful, I'm quite amazed really."

The 1km taped-off section in Ouepoto Reserve has not only provided a safe habitat for dotterels it is also being used by other birds who had started to successfully breed there too, Mr Hansen said.

These included Caspian tern, little tern, pectoral sandpiper, pied stilt, pied oystercatcher, white-faced heron, spur-winged plover and bar-tailed godwit.

"The bird life has come up quite considerably."


The reserve is perfect for birds because it is an estuarine habitat with a feeding area, he said.

Mr Hansen saw 20 New Zealand dotterel walking along the beach when he was there the other day.

"The public have responded very well to it...we're getting quite a lot feedback about the success of it."

The success of taping off an area from people for seven months of the year proved how bad human impact was for birds, he said.

There are two types of New Zealand dotterel in New Zealand, a northern subspecies such as those found in Hawke's Bay and a scarcer southern dotterel found in Stewart Island.

The New Zealand dotterel is sandy-brown with white underneath but in breeding season its chest and belly turn rusty red.

Breeding starts at the age of two or three when it lays several olive-coloured eggs in shallow nests in the sand and the birds usually lives to at least 30.