New Zealand Fairy Tern / Tara-iti

With a population of approximately 40 birds and an average of 9 breeding pairs, Sternula nereis davisae, the New Zealand fairy tern, (NZFT) is New Zealand's rarest endemic breeding bird.


Welcome to the home page for New Zealand's rarest and most
critically threatened endemic bird, the New Zealand fairy tern. 

Known to Maori as Tara-iti, most New Zealanders will never get
to see a New Zealand fairy tern, but those who do rapidly fall in
love with these gutsy little birds who will swoop and poop on
you if you get too close to their young or their nests.



First fairy tern chick of the 2016-17  season

First chick of the 2016-17 season
Picture: Laura Patience of Mangawhai


These birds need your help! Please join us.

You can help save this bird by joining our trust, becoming an NZ fairy tern volunteer with DOC and letting others know you care about these birds.

Facts about the New Zealand fairy tern

  • NZFT is the smallest tern that breeds in NZ with adults measuring around 250mm in length and weighing a mere 70 grams.
  • The average lifespan of NZFT is less than 10 years, however two individual birds are known to have survived into their 19th year.
  • Their nests, found currently on only five North Auckland beaches, are scrapes in shell-covered sand, usually above the spring high tide mark.
  • The estimated number of NZ fairy terns varies, but is currently around 40.​

Threats to NZFT survival

  • Some of the main threats are predators such as rats, dogs, cats, hedgehogs and mustelids who prey upon eggs, chicks and adult birds. Read more


New Zealand Fairy Tern Waipu 2015

The Waipu family 2015-16 season. Both chicks fledged successfully


About the New Zealand Fairy Tern Charitable Trust (NZFTCT)

  • Encouraged by the increase in birds from the low of about 10 in 1983 to about 40 in 2008, a group of individuals who are lucky enough to live near the remaining four breeding sites got together with concerned ornithologists and formed the New Zealand Fairy Tern Charitable Trust (NZFTCT).
  • Protection  of New Zealand Fairy Tern began in 1984 after the Wildlife Service had accounted for about 10 individuals that included only three or four breeding pairs. Management has continued under the Department of Conservation (DOC) and intensified since 1991, lowering the birds' risk of extinction within 50 years, but not eliminating it. (Ferreira et al 2005)

  • The Trust complements DOC's efforts to save the NZFT.

Join us

The possibility of this bird becoming extinct in the next 50 years is high without your help.

Become a member
Membership entitles you to:

  • Receive regular Trust bulletins and updates
  • Participate in advocacy for the terns
  • Join in with the volunteer groups who work closely with DOC during the breeding season
    For further Trust info

and to join us:

Download our membership form (49kb PDF)

For further NZFT reading - NZFT (Sterna nereis davisae) Recovery Plan, 2005-15. Katrina Hansen - Threatened Species Recovery Plan 57.
Download this PDF from (260kb PDF)

Volunteers needed now!

Volunteers are urgently needed to help save our most threatened endemic bird, the New Zealand fairy tern (Tara-iti). Each summer dedicated volunteers help DoC by keeping an eye on these tiny, plucky birds. There are currently abut 40 birds and by  watching  out  for  them  during  the  nesting  season,  the  numbers  could increase.


It is very rewarding to observe courtship, sitting on eggs and the hatching of the bumble bee sized chicks and eventually watching them learning to fly.


Introductory workshops are held where you meet other volunteers.


Please contact:

Jane Vaughan Volunteer Coordinator Ph 09-431-5828


Les Judd