Saving NZ fairy tern from extinction relies on protecting the species at its current four nesting sites and establishing new nesting sites in order to raise the population above 100 birds. The Trusts efforts are focused on the 2nd objective of establishing new predator-free nesting and roosting sites on the Kaipara Harbour.


Barely bigger than a bumble bee at birth and weighing only 70 grams as an adult, the fairy tern is New Zealand’s smallest tern.

New Zealand fairy tern / Tara Iti is New Zealand's rarest endemic breeding bird and the world’s most endangered shorebird.  The population  consists of only 40 birds with just 9 breeding females. Just three chicks fledged in the 2015-16 breeding season. 

In the mid 80’s the population fell to four breeding pairs.  The combined efforts of scientists and local communities at nesting sites are still trying to save it from extinction.

All of the current and former breeding and flocking sites, are threatened by either housing developments and/or people, vehicle and dog disturbance. This project aims to establish new predator-free nesting and roost sites on the Kaipara Harbour.

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 Banded Fairy Tern tustles with turnstones on 18 November 2016.  Photo Jane Ferguson

Banded Fairy Tern tustles with turnstones on 18 November 2016.  Photo Jane Ferguson

 Banded bird front with unbanded friend behind  Sighted 18 Nov 2016.  Photo Jane Ferguson.

Banded bird front with unbanded friend behind  Sighted 18 Nov 2016.  Photo Jane Ferguson.

The Trust started a new restoration project on Manukapua Island in July 2015.  Since the first trap was cleared on the 8th of August 2015 to the 19th November 2016 our traps have eradicated 88 possums, 40 hedgehogs, 10 feral cats, 4 stoats, 17 mice, 7 rats and 2 rabbits.  The Island is approximately 265 hectares with large intertidal flats.

On 11 February 2016 on a very high 4.3m tide two NZ fairy tern were sighted by Ian Southey on the northern high tide roost.  WM/WB a juvenile and PG/YM an adult, both from Mangawhai.  21 little tern and 7 whimbrel were also sighted amongst the banded dotterel, bar-tailed godwit, nz dotterel, pied stilt, red knot, ruddy turnstone, SI pied oystercatcher, variable oystercatcher and wrybill. 

While our key focus is support for the critically endangered Fairy Tern population, this project will also provide significant benefits for other species. 

As shorebird expert, Keith Woodley, from the Pukorokoro Miranda Naturalists’ Trust states:

The Kaipara Harbour qualifies as a wetland of international importance in that it meets several criteria under the Ramsar convention including:

It regularly supports over 20,000 migratory waterbirds
It regularly supports more than 1% of the individuals in a population of migratory waterbird.
The Kaipara supports 10.3 % of the bar-tailed godwit Limosa lapponica baueri population and 6.8 % of red knots Calidris canutus. Both species are showing marked population declines in the East Asian Australasian Flyway and are classified as Nationally Vulnerable under current DOC Threat rankings.

Optimal shorebird habitat requires both intertidal flats where birds forage and secure roost sites during high tide. Roosts are an essential part of a bird’s daily cycle used for preening and sleeping, and at such times birds are more vulnerable to threats from disturbance and predators. The end of the Tapora peninsula and Manukapua Island collectively form one of the most important roost sites for godwits, knots and other coastal wading birds in the Northland and Auckland regions and in New Zealand. Approximately 5% of the New Zealand dotterel population (Nationally Vulnerable) use the area as a post-breeding roost site. More than 1% of New Zealand’s turnstones, pied oystercatchers (Declining), and wrybill (Nationally Vulnerable) also roost there.

We believe any conservation work on Manukapua Island will provide immense benefits to these shorebirds.
— Keith Woodley, Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre

We thank the Central Auckland Branch of Forest and Bird for their support during the first stage of this project.  THANK YOU!

Trapping action Manukapua!

Photos from Bird Island summer 2013/14.