November update: Kaikōura Zone Delivery Lead

Kaikōura Zone Delivery manager Kevin Heays

Kaikōura Zone Delivery manager Kevin Heays

Hear from Kaikōura Zone Delivery manager Kevin Heays, who updates us on Kaikōura’s unique coastal biodiversity and how you can help protect it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we live in the most special place in the world. Whether its mountains, sea, rivers, flats, wetlands, coffee shops or treetops, we’ve got it all.

Our unique landscape also makes Kaikōura home to some of the coolest birds in the world, like Banded dotterels, red-billed gulls, white-fronted terns, little penguins, spotted shags, Hutton’s shearwater, paradise shelduck and more.

At the moment, many of these species are breeding around our shores and particularly around the peninsula, so we need to be conscious of our impact when enjoying the coastal environment.

Dotty for dotterels

We keep banging on about the Banded dotterels, but for good cause. Kaikōura is home to the nationally vulnerable coastal bird, who makes its nests in the rocks along the shore.

Pohowera (Banded dotterel)

Pohowera (Banded dotterel)

It might not make sense to us - these birds setting up shop in areas where they’re most at risk from human, cat, dog, and vehicle devastation - but you’ve got to remember that they were making nests there long before you and I were making our home in Kaikōura.

According to the Department of Conservation, there are only about 2500 pohowera (Banded dotterels) left, making them more at risk than some species of Kiwi. Coastal development, introduced predators, and disturbance during breeding seasons all contribute to a drop in numbers.

There aren’t many places left where the Banded dotterel breed and we’re lucky that they keep returning to share their environment with us, allowing us to admire their cute offspring.

Follow the local Banded Dotterel Study Kaikōura on Facebook to keep up to date with the local pohowera.

Happy about those Hutton’s

The Hutton’s shearwater/titi is also very special to Kaikōura. In fact, it’s the only place in the world where it breeds. I repeat – the only place in the world. That’s pretty incredible and is something worth not only celebrating, but also protecting.

The Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust estimates the Seaward Kaikōura Ranges had a breeding population of around 300,000 pairs pre-earthquake but might have lost about a third of it due to landslides and burrow collapse in their mountain colonies.

The species is regarded as nationally vulnerable because of past declines (reduction from eight to two colonies in the wild since the 1960’s) and the threats it continues to face like introduced mammals, with feral pigs considered a major culprit, and limited habitat to breed in safely. Another issue the Hutton’s shearwater face is the bright lights of Kaikōura, which lie in their flight path to sea, resulting in hundreds considerable numbers crash landing each year due to light disorientation. This often results in fatalities due to crash injuries or falling victim to cars or cats once grounded.

Protecting our local birds

I recently heard about a paradise shelduck whānau/family on the beach in the heart of South Bay. It’s especially important we do everything we can to protect this family, and the many more who are nesting in the area. We’re lucky to have such a unique and special array of bird species right next to us.

The Kaikōura Wildlife Hospital has great advice and tips on its Facebook page. Some other things to keep in mind includes: 

  • Beachgoers giving shorebirds a wide birth and ensuring their dogs are under control
  • Keeping your cat inside from dusk to dawn - this will benefit all wildlife and decrease predation pressure
  • 4WD vehicles sticking to the main track
  • All drivers looking out for wildlife on our roads
  • Disposing of your rubbish, fishing tackle, cans etc. properly, so birds can’t accidentally eat it or get caught up in it
  • Be aware of what species might be around you – sharing the coast to keep everyone safe and happy.

Regardless of whether you live work or play in Kaikōura, we’ve all got a responsibility to protect the shorebirds that share our coastal and inland environment with.

Ngā mihi,

Kev