The New Zealand Fairy Tern

The New Zealand Fairy Tern (Tana iti) is a species of bird native to New Zealand. It used to be wide spread around North Island and eastern south island. But now it can be only found in the upper North Island in Whangarei and Auckland.
It is the smallest tern found in New Zealand. The average bird has a length of 25 cm and weighs just a tiny 70 grams. The Fairy Tern can be recognised by its bright black cap, bright yellow beak, small orange legs and grey wings. These brightly colours fade after breeding season
The Fairy Tern is critically endangered. It has been on the brink of extinction since the 1970s. In 1984 the number of Fairy Terns dropped to only three breeding pairs. There is an estimated 45 individual and 12 breeding pairs remaining today, making it the rarest breeding bird in New Zealand. Its breeding season is the October to February. There are four breeding sites Waipu, Mangawhai, Te Arai, Pakiri, and Papakanui Spit
Fairy Terns face a number of threats. Native predators such as the black backed gull/karoro and the harrier hawk/kahu. These birds prey on the Fairy Tern from the skies, to escape these attacks the fairy tern has developed defences to protect themselves from the birds for example freezing and the chick’s feathers camouflage them. Unfortunately introduced predators such as cats, rats, ferrets, stoats, weasels, and hedgehogs use their sense of smell to hunt the Fairy Tern.
The Fairy Terns nesting behaviours is another factor to why they are facing extinction. They nest just above high tide on shells and sand banks. They lay small eggs into shallow nest. Nesting on the ground means their eggs are easy targets to many of the introduced predators. Disturbance by people’s activities, walking dogs, driving vehicles and riding horses on the riverbeds the birds eggs can be crushed because of their size and inability to be seen. Housing developments on beaches, extremely high tides and stormy weather can also disturb where the Fairy Tern nests.
There are ways the public can get involved to help Fairy Terns survival. There needs to be more awareness about how endangered the Tern is so people can understand the importance of keeping beaches and rivers clean of rubbish and bait from fishing to discourage predators. Staying within the designated walkways to avoid trampling on eggs and nest.
Most people will never get the chance to see the Fairy Tern in the wild and many people do not even know about it existed which is a shame because what the bird lacks in size and weight it makes up for in attitude. Fairy Terns are known to attack, chase and loudly squawk at any humans getting too close to their nest.