The former range of shore plover is poorly known. They were first sighted in Dusky and Queen Charlotte Sounds on Cook’s second voyage, and at mudflats and sandspits around the North Island in the early 1800s.
By the 1870s. cats and Norways rats caused the shore plover to vanish from mainland coasts.
For more than 100 years, Rangatira in the Chatham Islands had the only known population of around 120 birds. The wild population (2016) consists of 66 breeding pairs – 56 of which are in the Chatham Islands.
Shore plover are small, stocky birds with white, black, and brown plumage. They have a brown cap, with a white ring separating this from the dark face and neck.
The face is black in the male and dark brown in the female. The bill is red with a black tip, which is more extensive and less sharply defined in the female. The legs are orange.
The territorial call is a loud, rapid ringing, similar to an oystercatcher piping. Pairs use a soft ‘chip’ contact call to stay in touch.
Where to find them
Auckland’s Motutapu Island is the easiest place to see shore plover.
They are also found on Rangatira and Mangere Islands in the Chatham Islands, and Waikawa Island in Hawke’s Bay – all of which have restricted access.
Introduced predators are the main reason for shore plover vanishing from New Zealand’s coastlines. Offshore islands are a refuge from cats and rats, however all sites are at risk of rat invasions.
Rats are a particular risk as even a single rat can have a major impact.
Attempts to establish populations at Portland and Mana Islands suffered a loss of more than 80% of the resident birds. It was suspected that a single rat was the cause in both cases.
DOC published the Shore Plover Recovery Plan in 2001.
The goal is to maintain and/or establish wild shore plover at a total of five or more locations with a combined population of 250 or more individuals.
Achieving this requires island biosecurity, captive breeding, and translocations to predator-free islands.
Since the 1990s, the National Wildlife Centre at Pukaha Mt Bruce and the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust in Christchurch has carried out captive breeding of shore plover.
These captive-reared juveniles have been released on predator-free islands including Motuora, Waikawa, Rarotoka, Mana and Motutapu in an effort to create five self-sustaining populations.
How you can help
Report sightings in Auckland and Hawke's Bay
Colour-banded shore plover were released on Motutapu Island to establish a new population. These birds are often seen in the wider Auckland area. Shore plover also occasionally disperse from Waikawa Island and are seen around Hawke’s Bay.
If you see a colour-banded shore plover around Auckland or the Hawke's Bay, let us know. A photograph will help us identify the individuals.
Help protect New Zealand's native birds
- Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
- Don’t throw rubbish into water ways or storm drains.
- Set traps for stoats or rats on your property. Get more information from your local DOC office.
- Put a bell on your cat's collar, feed it well, and keep it indoors at night.
- Plant a range of native plants that provide food year-round to encourage birds into your garden.
When visiting parks and beaches
- Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep your dog under control.
- Prevent the spread of pests. Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
- Use available access ways to get to the beach. Stay out of fenced-off areas. Leave nesting shore birds alone.
- Get your dog trained in avian awareness, and help save forest birds like kiwi and weka.
- Follow the water care code. Keep water craft speed to 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore.