Black-billed gull with chick
Image: Kayla Rench | Creative Commons

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


Endangered tarāpuka/black-billed gulls have a habit of choosing unfortunate nesting sites – requiring some creative thinking from DOC rangers.

Date:  25 November 2021

Birds on Lake Taupō have once again chosen a doozy, with nesting behaviour reported last week on the roof of a boat named ‘Truffles’ at the Motuoapa Marina.

DOC rangers moved quickly to relocate the nests, and hopefully the colony, to a nearby grassy area.

Senior biodiversity ranger Sarah Tunnicliffe says the birds are often found nesting in difficult locations.

“This year we’ve also laid out a pretend ‘beach’ at the wharf in Tokaanu to keep them safe from people and animals.

“These birds are the most endangered gull in the world, so it’s important for us to protect them.”

Back at Motuoapa rangers have constructed tidy gravel-filled circles in the grass with model tarāpuka to lure the colony in.

“We made luxury accommodation in the hopes they choose it instead of boats!”

Black-billed gulls are unique to New Zealand and are classified as nationally critical.

People interfering with these birds can face fines of up to $100,000 or even jail time.

“If we give them the space they need and protect them from predators hopefully this local colony will continue to thrive.”

Nesting season is from November to January in the Taupō area.

If you see black-billed gulls nesting in other areas of the district please contact DOC.

Background information

The black-billed gull has the unfortunate status of being the most threatened gull species in the world. Stronghold populations have rapidly declined by as much as 80%, resulting in its threat status being upgraded from Nationally Endangered to Nationally Critical in 2013.

Disturbing protected birds and destroying nests is an offence under the Wildlife Act 1953 and can result in imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

Birds with good nesting sites are more likely to raise chicks successfully. The best nest sites have:

  • islands surrounded by a moat of water for protection from predators
  • high points which are less flood prone
  • little or no vegetation for all round visibility
  • a good food supply close at hand
  • little or no disturbance.


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