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.


Fairy Tern Newsletter

February 2019

In this issue:

Fairy tern news; Thanks; Museum exhibition; Fish Study; Recent events; Newsroom stories.


December 2018

In this issue:

Fairy tern news; Calendars; Museum display; Fishing Study; Coming events.


June 2018

In this issue:

Thanks: Sheila Coombs, Bennetts, Malcolm Pullman.

Trapping, Fairy Tern Recovery Workshop, Obama Visit Highlights Land Grab, Mangawhai Dredging Covers Nest Site, Mangawhai Museum Special Fairy Tern Exhibition, Fish Study, Calendar.

Rangers’ reports: Waipu, Mangawhai, Pakiri, Papakanui.


February 2018

In this issue:

Fairy tern news; Summary of Breeding results.
Events: Waipu, Mangawhai, Papakanui; Coming Events; Fish Study; Te Arai.


Our NZ Fairy Tern voted Seabird of the Year

It's our Tern.

Click here to read more details from Heather Rogan, Convenor, New Zealand Fairy Tern Charitable Trust

New Facebook Page

New committee member, Ria, has created a wonderful Facebook page for the trust. Check it out by clicking on this link: NZFTCT on FaceBook

NZ fairy tern Population

An August 2014 update from David Wilson, DoC Ranger, Warkworth:  From “the Kaipara wader census and other fairy tern sightings, and taking into account [earlier] sightings also I now make it 39 birds seen since the beginning of April.”

Membership renewals are due in August

Unless you have joined since April 1, 2014.

The Trust is reliant on our members for its ongoing existence and we are very grateful for your interest and support.

 2013 -2014, a RECORD breeding season !

Twelve New Zealand fairy tern chicks fledged this season, a record number since the protection programme began in the 1980s.

Nine of these hatched were on the Mangawhai Wildlife Refuge where, for the first time for many years, there were six pairs breeding.

Obviously, the efforts of the warden and the volunteers contribute to the birds' success, but what has made all the difference since the beginning of last season has been the outstanding trapping effort undertaken by Reg Whale, chief trapper, assisted from time to time by Colin Stitt.

The NZ Fairy Tern Charitable Trust received funding for trapping from the ASB Trust for the 2012-13 breeding season and again for the 2013-14 breeding season, but Reg continued trapping throughout the winter on a voluntary basis. Some new traps and bait were funded by a grant to the NZ Fairy Tern Trust from the Mangawhai Endowment Fund.

Good weather and the great support of the Mangawhai community all helped as well. Let's hope for more successful seasons ahead!

Reg Whale chief trapper

Reg Whale, chief trapper taken by Sioux Plowman

The truly astonishing trapping totals:

Sept 2012
to April 2013
Apr 2013
to Nov 2013  
Nov 2013
to Jan 2014 
86 rats   44 rats   38 rats
70 hedgehogs  42 hedgehogs   63 hedgehogs
14 stoats   12 stoats 7 stoats
17 cats   7 cats     13 cats
13 rabbits   4 rabbits 2 rabbits
9 possums 5 possums 4 pigs
2 ferrets    
Catching this number of predators must have had a beneficial effect on the breeding success of the NZ fairy tern!

Mangawhai and Waipu Area updates 2013-2014 breeding season

from DOC Trainee Ranger,Briar Cook

As of January 2014:

The Mangawhai chicks have kept Rangi very busy over the holiday period by pulling disappearing acts, avoiding pursuit, and swapping parents. Cheeky!

NZ fairy tern chick

NZ fairy tern chick caught for banding

Rangi (DOC warden, Mangawhai) and David, with assistance from PJ ((DOC warden, Waipu) and volunteers, have successfully banded eight of the nine fairy tern chicks at Mangawhai.

Two chicks have taken exception to the interruption and shifted south of their original nest site, but are otherwise in good nick.

The ninth chick ducked and dodged DOC staff, then disappeared for a worrying couple of days, meaning Rangi spent Christmas morning hunting for a very well-camouflaged ball of fluff in a vast area. The chick eventually reappeared in a different nest site, already home to two chicks. It is reaping the benefits of being fed by both of its original parents and the foster parents in the new site, who don't seem to mind an extra mouth to feed!

Waipu's Matilda has also been banded and is making short flights around her nest site. In a surprise move, the second Waipu pair that nested at Mangawhai this season (infertile eggs) has returned to Waipu and been snapped copulating in their home territory. There may be more of the season to come yet.

banding a fairy tern chick

                                           Banding a NZ fairy tern chick

Most of the chicks have begun to fly and soon volunteers and wardens will be able to catch a well-earned breath.

We are coming out the other side of the silly season and with ten chicks still happy and healthy, things are looking good for the fairy terns.

NZFT joins the Colgate Games

At the North Island 2014 Athletics NZ’s Colgate Games, (to be held in Whangarei January 10-12, 2014) all 1054 young competitors will be wearing a t-shirt with a logo that includes a New Zealand fairy tern. Thanks to our patron, Audrey Williams who organised this, children from all over the North Island may ask what the bird is on their t-shirt! Thank you Audrey and Athletics Northland!

Below is their letter head, also thanks to Audrey:


 To read more about the Forest and Bird project to enhance a possible NZ fairy tern breeding site on the Kaipara Harbour, click here >>


To see a chart of the minimum current NZFT population
as of May 2013, please click here

Breeding results summary for 2012-13 season:


Number of
breeding pairs
Waipu 1 0 2
Mangawhai 5 3 3 3
  (Two of these eggs were transferred to Waipu via Auckland Zoo. Two eggs came from Pakiri, one hatched and the chick fledged.)
Te Arai 2 0 0 1
Pakiri 2 2 2 1
  (The two eggs laid at Pakiri went to Mangawhai. The two eggs that hatched here came from Waipu.)
Papakanui 2 (known) 0 0 1


Five sites combined

Total eggs laid: 15 (known)           

Eggs hatched: 6           

Chicks fledged: 5

Number of breeding pairs: 8


The story from Lyn Whale, Secretary of the Te Arai Dotterel Care Group:


No corporate castle needed for this endearing little pair that arrived at Te Arai beach to prepare for and raise their chicks.   Home is a simple scrape in the sand.  Two eggs later and the community of Te Arai were very excited about the prospect of New Zealand’s rarest endemic breeding bird, the New Zealand Fairy Tern, once again breeding on Te Arai beach after an absence of approximately 20 years.

    fairy tern breeding

                                                                                   Photo/Reg Whale

The community, supported by the Department of Conservation, began a timetable of nest minding while the department arranged for and made an appointment of a full time warden for the beach for the breeding season. Sadly this is one love story that did not have a happy ending.   Late one evening the eggs, which were well on the way to hatching, mysteriously disappeared. No tracks or prints were found, but the on-site camera had been tampered with, suggesting human intervention.

A successful concerted effort of trapping predators has been in place at Te Arai over the last six years, with volunteers also putting up fencing to protect nesting shore birds and talking to beach users about the needs of our endangered species. Te Arai enjoys the protection of the Wild Life Act and so is therefore a no dog beach all year around and under Auckland Council by laws is a no vehicle beach.

Te Arai Dotterel care group would like to thank members of the public who stay out of the fenced off areas and remind dog lovers that there is a designated dog exercise area at Te Arai Point car park.

A spokesperson for the New Zealand Fairy Tern Trust said that it was inevitable that fairy terns would return to breeding again at Te Arai. As populations re-build they will seek out more sites and Te Arai is an obvious choice.  More sites also provides greater security against extinction as it spreads the risk of predator invasions and storm effects on nesting birds.

Footnote: Shortly after the Te Arai NZ fairy tern eggs disappeared, dotterel eggs also vanished from a site nearby and this time footprints were seen leading to the nest!

NZ Post Issue Fairy Tern Coin

Each year New Zealand Post issues an endangered species coin and last year’s coin. launched February 23, 2012 featured the New Zealand fairy tern! The coin may be purchased from Post Shops or on line. To purchase coins, read more here

All proceeds from a Trade Me charity auction for the No. 43 Proof currency set were donated to our trust. fairy tern coin

Thank you, New Zealand Post!