Manawatu Estuary sand spit roosting site
Image: | DOC

Introduction

Kuaka (godwits) are Arctic shorebirds that fly all the way from Alaska to enjoy the New Zealand summer. The first few have begun arriving at the Manawatu Estuary - a happy sign that summer is coming!

Date:  06 October 2017

The estuary is an internationally important wetland, right in our back yard. People can explore it at the ‘Welcome back to the waders’ event this Conservation Week.

The estuary, which is at the mouth of the Manawatu River in Foxton Beach, provides feeding and roost sites for migrating shorebirds like bar-tailed godwits and lesser knots. 

DOC rangers have been working at the estuary to ensure Arctic migrants like the godwits have a safe place to rest after their long journey. Everyone likes a rest after a long trip!

All migratory shorebirds require feeding sites (used at low and mid tides) and roost sites (where they can rest over high tides). Roost sites need to be open with good visibility in all directions, so that the birds can maintain a watch for predators and take flight if any threats are sighted.

Club rush, a native, non-threatened sedge that grows in clumps up to 1 m high, has been growing on the estuary sand spit, reducing visibility for birds roosting there.

DOC ranger Morgan Marshall digging.
DOC ranger Morgan Marshall pulling out Ficinia noosa
Image: DOC

DOC ranger Tamara Friedmann digging.
DOC ranger Tamara Friedmann digging out Ficinia noosa
Image: DOC

In September, a team of three DOC rangers (Sue Moore, Morgan Marshall and Tamara Friedmann) removed about 160 of these plants from the roost site. The purpose of this mahi was to ensure birds currently arriving in the estuary will be able to roost safely.

While they were working, the first huahou (red knots) were seen returning from their breeding grounds in Siberia.

Shorebirds like black-billed gulls, wrybills and banded dotterels also use the estuary as a stopover site while travelling between their wintering and breeding grounds.

So all up, the birds of the Manawatu Estuary are an extremely well-travelled lot.

If you would like to find out more about this special place and the birds that spend time here, come along to the Welcome to the Waders event this Conservation Week.

The Manawatu Estuary is also a Toyota Kiwi Guardians site. Children can earn these medals while visiting the estuary:

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