This paper presents the results of four censuses of the northern New Zealand dotterel population undertaken between 1989 and 2011. During that period, the population increased by roughly 50%, from about 1,320 to about 2,130 birds. Most birds (85%) were in the northern part of the North Island (Northland, Auckland, and Coromandel Peninsula), but the taxon is expanding its range southwards on both the west and east coasts. On the east coast, a few pairs are now breeding close to Cook Strait. Population trends varied between regions, and almost all of the overall increase was a result of increases on the east coast. The highest rates of increase were on the Auckland east coast and on Coromandel Peninsula, probably because the intensity of management has been highest in those regions. In the Auckland urban area, birds now routinely breed inland, mainly on grass or bare earth; elsewhere, the taxon is almost entirely coastal. The proportion of birds on the west coast has fallen over the past 50 years, and about 85% of the taxon is now found on the east coast. If the overall increase in numbers has continued at the same rate since 2011, there would be about 2,600 birds in 2020. The size of the population and its rate of increase justify the recent down-listing of the subspecies to a threat ranking of At Risk (Recovering), but it remains Conservation Dependent. The recovery programme has been highly successful, and most management of the taxon is now undertaken by community groups, regional councils, and volunteers. Continuing threats include predation, flooding of nests, and disturbance during breeding; in future, continuing coastal development and increased recreational activity will probably degrade habitat further, particularly on the east coast, and climate change will have a range of impacts.
Co-ordinated counts of waders across New Zealand have been undertaken in November and June since 1983; the consistent timing of counts aimed to reduce variation from the effect of seasonal changes in bird numbers. The Australian Shorebird census and the wider Asian Waterbird Census, however, are conducted in January, making direct comparison with the New Zealand counts potentially problematic, especially if an attempt is to be made to assess total flyway populations. Since 1998 waders on Farewell Spit (40°30.5 ́S, 172°45 ́E to 40°33.5 ́N 173°02 ́E) have been counted in February as well as in November and June. Counts of bar-tailed godwit and ruddy turnstone were on average 20% and 35% higher in February compared to November, respectively. Also, counts of the endemic migratory South Island pied oystercatcher were 15% higher in February compared to June. The improvement of data for overall population assessments is not only important for establishing trends of species but is also important for applying the 1% population criterion for wader site assessments.
Two approaches to estimating the population size of great albatrosses (Diomedea spp.) were tested in the Auckland Islands, New Zealand. The first approach used a series of aerial photographs taken on Adams Island to produce high-resolution photo-mosaics suitable for counting nesting Gibson’s wandering albatross (Diomedea antipodensis gibsoni). The second involved a direct count from a helicopter of southern royal albatross (D. epomophora) breeding on Enderby Island. Both techniques produced results that closely matched counts of albatrosses attending nests derived from ground counts, although aerial counts could not determine whether birds were sitting on eggs or empty nests. If estimates of breeding pairs are required, aerial counts of nests require a correction factor to adjust for birds that are apparently nesting but have not laid. Such correction factors are best based on ground counts undertaken simultaneously with the aerial counts. Used in conjunction with correction factors, the two techniques provide a method of estimating the population size of great albatrosses breeding in remote areas where it may be logistically difficult to undertake ground counts of the whole population.
Between 2010 and 2016, the community group Friends of Flora Inc., in partnership with the Department of Conservation, translocated 44 roroa (Apteryx haastii) to the Flora Stream area in Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand. Each kiwi was fitted with a VHF transmitter and their subsequent locations were monitored for two to eight years by radio-telemetry. Monitoring showed that short to medium term translocation goals relating to survival and home range establishment were met. Dispersal occurred for 9 to 878 days prior to home ranges being established. This post- translocation monitoring was used to inform management decisions to extend predator control from 5,000 to 9,000 ha and to retrieve four of the kiwi that dispersed outside the project area. At the end of the study, 68% of the translocated kiwi were known to have home ranges within the trapped area. The study illustrates the benefit of long-term post- translocation monitoring and a flexible approach to deal with unforeseen dispersal.
Many species recovery programmes use pedigrees to understand the genetic ancestry of individuals to inform conservation management. However, incorrect parentage assignment may limit the accuracy of these pedigrees and subsequent management decisions. This is especially relevant for pedigrees that include wild individuals, where misassignment may not only be attributed to human error, but also promiscuity (i.e. extra-pair parentage) or egg-dumping (i.e. brood parasitism). Here, we evaluate pedigree accuracy in the socially monogamous and critically endangered kakī (black stilt, Himantopus novaezelandiae) using microsatellite allele-exclusion analyses for 56 wild family groups across three breeding seasons (2014–2016, n = 340). We identified 16 offspring where parentage was incorrectly assigned, representing 5.9% of all offspring. Of the 16 misassigned offspring, three can be attributed to non-kakī brood parasitism, one can be assigned to human error, but others cannot be readily distinguished between non-monogamous mating behaviours and human error. In the short term, we advise the continued use of microsatellites to identify misassigned offspring in the kakī pedigree, and to verify non-kakī brood parasitism. We also recommend the Department of Conservation’s Kakī Recovery Programme further evaluate the implications of pedigree error to the management of this critically endangered taonga species.
Bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica) were counted throughout New Zealand and on the east coast of Australia during the 2019–2020 austral summer, in the first attempt to assess the total population of the subspecies baueri on the southern hemisphere non-breeding grounds. Survey coverage in New Zealand was nationwide (158 sites surveyed); surveys in Australia covered 314 sites between Great Sandy Strait in southern Queensland, and the Gulf St Vincent in South Australia. Areas north of Great Sandy Strait were either partially counted or were not visited over this survey period. Partial surveys were excluded from the survey results. The total number of godwits counted was 116,446. If allowance is made for an additional ~10,000 birds expected to have been present in northern Queensland (based on previous surveys), the total population of baueri in New Zealand and Australia would have been about 126,000. The 2019 breeding season was very successful, with the highest recorded number of juvenile birds since 2011 and 2012.
Accurate long-term monitoring of a threatened species’ population size and trend is important for conservation management. The endangered yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) is a non-colonial breeder. Population monitoring of the subantarctic population has focused on beach counts rather than nesting birds. Here, we combined intensive nest-searching and counts of transiting penguins on Enderby Island, Auckland Islands, over 3 years to establish the relationship between count numbers and breeding birds. Morning beach counts of transiting penguins were extrapolated to estimate breeding population for the entire Auckland Island group from 2012 to 2017. Breeding numbers varied considerably between years, but overall did not appear to be declining in the short term. Breeding birds at the Auckland Islands averaged 577 pairs annually over the three ground-truthed breeding seasons, similar to the lower estimate of 520–680 pairs from the last survey in 1989, but less than the higher estimate of 650–1,009 pairs generated from that survey. Direct comparison of beach counts indicated a large decline, but these may be more prone to uncertainty. Large variations between years indicated variable breeding effort. The Auckland Islands (particularly Enderby Island) represent 37–49% of the total breeding population for yellow-eyed penguins, indicating the importance of the subantarctic populations for the species. We recommend ongoing monitoring, including mark-recapture methods, for future population estimates. At least 50% of the individuals in an area should be marked to reduce confidence intervals of estimates.
Between 2014 and 2018 a mark-recapture/ resighting study was conducted to ascertain the size of the population of New Zealand storm petrel (Fregatta maoriana) at their breeding grounds on Hauturu, Little Barrier Island, New Zealand. A total of 415 New Zealand storm petrels were captured and marked with individual colour bands using acoustic playback and night-time spotlighting on Hauturu. Two mark-recapture models were developed using the recaptures of banded birds on land and the at-sea resightings of banded birds attracted to burley on the Hauraki Gulf near Hauturu. The land- based model suggests a current population of 994 (range 446–2,116) individuals whereas the at-sea model suggests an estimate of 1,630 (range 624–3,758) individuals. The discrepancy between these models likely lies in the bias of on-land captures towards juvenile birds constituting >50% of birds caught. We consider the at-sea model most representative of total population size. Logistic population growth models anchored by on-land and at-sea population estimates suggest pre-rat eradication populations of New Zealand storm petrel of 323 and 788 individuals respectively.
The results of biannual national wader counts done during winter (June–July) and early summer (November– December) by the Ornithological Society of New Zealand (OSNZ)/Birds New Zealand from 2005 to 2019 are compared with similar counts done in 1983 to 1994. Although the national wader counts continued 1995–2004 the coverage was insufficient to enable comparable analyses; however, reference is made to some sites that were counted continuously since 1983. At least 1,567 counts at 74 sites nationally resulted in 3,977,228 waders of 39 species being counted. The numbers of most species have declined since the 1983–1994 surveys, particularly evident in the northern hemisphere migrants, with the numbers of some species down by 50% or more. Such changes in numbers are likely to be a true reflection of the declining populations rather than changes in the counting effort. Some native species are faring better, mostly as a result of numerous community-led wader protection projects for northern New Zealand dotterels (Charadrius obscurus aquilonius) and variable oystercatchers (Haematopus unicolor).