Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


One of New Zealand’s rarest birds, the New Zealand fairy tern / tara-iti, has been boosted by a chick successfully hatching at Pakiri, North of Auckland over the weekend (15 December).

Date:  17 December 2018

With a total population of approximately 40 birds, the New Zealand fairy tern is critically endangered, and has teetered on the brink of extinction since the 1970s.

 “Although it is early days for the chick and the risks are high, we are hopeful they will continue to do well and fledge later in summer,” says DOC Technical Advisor Threats Tony Beauchamp

“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.”

Fairy terns nest on shell and sand banks just above high tide, making them vulnerable to rats, stoats and other predators, disturbance by people, 4WD vehicles and dogs. They are also at risk from stormy weather and very high tides.

“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,” said Tony.  

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. 

Once widespread around the North Island and on the eastern South Island, the New Zealand fairy tern now breeds at only four nesting sites; Papakanui Spit, Pakiri Beach, Waipu and Mangawhai sandspits.

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

You can help New Zealand fairy terns

  • Stay out of fenced areas and use designated walkways.
  • Avoid shorebird nests and chicks.
  • Keep dogs on leads.
  • Remove bait, fish and rubbish to deter predators.
  • Run vehicles below the tide mark.
  • If you are being chased, squawked at, or if a bird is on the ground pretending to be injured, you are too close to a nest.
  • If you find a nest do not touch it. The parent birds will be close by.

Laws to protect fairy terns and other shorebirds

  • No dogs or vehicles in Wildlife Refuges and Reserves
  • WDC Dog Bylaw 2013 – $300 infringement notice for non-compliance
  • Disturbance of wildlife is an offence


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