Published on 10 January 2021

Alternative nest covers for shorebirds

I recently spotted some nest protective covers at Otamure Bay, in Northland, for nesting Northern New Zealand dotterel tūturiwhatu (Charadrius obscurus aquilonius). I have written about nest covers for shorebirds in the past, but I thought it would be good to do a new post with alternative designs to the ones I have personally used in the past.

I spent a few days camping at the Department of Conservation (DOC) campground, which by the way is excellent - like most of DOC's accommodation in NZ.

On my second walk by the beach I spotted a dotterel nest with one egg, probably laid overnight as I did not see it on the previous evening. After chatting to the campsite staff about it, the nest was quickly roped-off an a cover was installed to protect the nest - mainly from avian predators. The adult bird guarding the nest at that time (likely the female) rapidly "accepted" the human-driven modification and after a couple of minutes went back to it, happy as. This is a behavior I have previously witnessed in other locations for this very same species.

One of the covers I saw was made of four wood stakes with a plastic box on top. I like the idea of having a box since it seemed to provide a lot of shade in the hottest hours of the day, when the eggs (and in extreme cases the adults) may be exposed to overheating. At the same time, some plastics do degrade quickly under strong sunlight, which raises doubts about its durability. It seemed to be doing a good job though and the bird was obviously OK with it.

The other cover I saw was a metal frame with a plastic mesh attached on top. The frame looked very robust and durable so did the mesh. Usually this kind of mesh is seen in gardens and even in construction sites, which makes me think it must be quite strong and durable.

The nests were both in the same area and there was plenty of signs and information for the public. Like much of the New Zealand coast, Northland sees an increase of visitors during the summer months. It is important to give these nesting birds a helping hand since human-driven disturbance is known to drastically decrease their breeding productivity.

Thanks to the Otamure Bay campsite staff for the great work they do. I hope they get to fledge some chicks this season!