Despite the weather conspiring against the survival one of New Zealand's most endangered birds the first fairy tern chick of the season has hatched at Pakiri.

The chick hatched on Saturday, taking the critically endangered species' numbers up to 41.

"Although it is early days for the chick and the risks are high, we are hopeful he or she will continue to do well and fledge later in summer," Department of Conservation (DoC) advisor on threatened species Tony Beauchamp said.

"This breeding season has been disrupted by a higher number of lows across the central Tasman that have delivered repeated high wind events. Last year we had five chicks fledge but we are likely to have fewer chicks this year."


The NZ fairy terns breed at only five sites: four on Northland's east coast between Waipū and Pakiri and one at Papakanui Spit near the Kaipara Harbour south head.

The fairy tern, or tara-iti, has been on the brink of extinction since the 1970s. Although they have been the subject of an intense conservation and protection drive, they are almost their own worst enemies.

They nest without shelter on shallow scrapes on shell and sand banks just above high tide where they are at risk from stormy weather and very high tides. They are also vulnerable to cats, rats, stoats and other predators, disturbance by people, vehicles and dogs.

"The birds cannot be transported to predator-free offshore islands because they are very particular about where they nest, and the chicks are not raised in captivity as they are looked after by their parents while they learn how to fish successfully," Beauchamp said.

A dedicated team of four fairy tern DoC rangers have been busy since September trapping predators near nesting sites and preventing nesting birds from being disturbed by humans.

DoC works closely with Te Arai and Mangawhai Shorebirds Trust, NZ Fairy Tern Charitable Trust, About Tern, Birds NZ, ENL, the Waipū Trapping Group, Ornithological Society of New Zealand and Te Uri O Hau to help protect the New Zealand fairy tern.

The public can also help one of the world's rarest birds by staying out of taped off or fenced areas and using designated walkways, taking a wide berth around nests and chicks, keeping dogs on leads, removing bait, fish and rubbish to deter predators and driving vehicles below the high tide mark.

Anyone being chased, squawked at, or if a bird is on the ground pretending to be injured, is possibly too close to a nest.

Disturbing wildlife is an offence. People should also be aware there are laws to protect fairy terns and other shorebirds, which include no dogs or vehicles in Wildlife Refuges and Reserves, and a Whangārei District Council Dog Bylaw 2013 means a $300 fine for non-compliance.