25 Oct 2014

Public asked to help protect rare bird

1:20 pm on 25 October 2014

The Conservation Department is making a plea for New Zealand's most endangered bird, the fairy tern, as visitors pour into Northland for Labour Weekend.

The tiny birds make their nests in the sand in wildlife refuges on four Northland beaches: Waipu, Mangawhai and Pakiri and in Kaipara on Papakanui Spit.

A fairy tern and its chick.

A fairy tern and its chick. Photo: SUPPLIED

DoC says there are only 39 fairy terns left - but last year they managed to fledge 10 chicks - thanks to the constant efforts of volunteers who protect the nests, which are little more than scrapes in the sand or shellbank.

Conservation ranger Vivienne Lepper said the all-important breeding season has just started and goes until February.

"This is a particularly vulnerable time for the birds. And with the summer influx of visitors to the area, we're asking locals to remind their visitors of the laws ... no dogs, cats or vehicles on the wildlife refuge, and for people to keep their distance from the birds, their nests and the eggs."

Two dedicated DoC fairy tern wardens have been fencing nesting sites and preparing them by laying down shell.

The wardens work a seven-day roster, monitoring breeding attempts, maintaining fences, educating the public, setting traps for predators and enforcing laws.

Volunteers also play a big part in monitoring, trapping and surveillance of the Northland nesting sites.