Things looking up for cat-plagued dotterel colony on Wellington Harbour

A beleaguered shorebird colony on Wellington Harbour has had a turn of fortune thanks to understanding cat owners, a monitoring group says.
In previous years, the Eastbourne banded dotterel colony has been plagued with cat problems last year a single fledgling survived after a tabby was caught on camera raiding nests throughout the breeding season. The year before not a single chick survived.

Parker Jones, co-ordinator from the Mainland Island Restoration Operation (MIRO), said the 2020-2021 breeding season had given volunteers a boost in confidence with the survival of three fledglings from 12 nests.

Eastbournes banded dotterel colony has experienced its most successful breeding season in years with the survival of three fledglings. Last year just one survived while the year before all the chicks were wiped out by a cat.

He said an awareness campaign last year asking cat owners to keep their pets inside at night appeared to have worked.

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The last two seasons had been disastrous. We know it was cats eating the eggs, and we could tell they were domestic because they were nice and fat, and had glossy coats.

Dotterels are a ground-nesting species and chicks are particularly vulnerable to predation before they are able to fly. It appeared one nest at the colony, which is the only one inside Wellington Harbour, had been predated by a cat this season.

Ken Atkinson/Supplied
Dotterels are a ground-nesting species and chicks are vulnerable to predation before they are able to fly. (File photo)

He said it was good to have the community buy-in from cooperative pet owners to the Eastbourne Scout Group which helped distribute flyers produced by Hutt City Council.

Awareness had come a long way from when he started as a conservation volunteer in the mid 2000s.

We used to have a lot of interference with our traps. People used to trash them, Jones said.

Five fledglings from 11 nests had survived at the other MIRO monitored colony at Parangarahu Lakes, which faced out into the Cook Strait where Jones said 14 stoats had been trapped during the season an unusually large number.

The Parangarahu Lakes colony consistently produced fledglings because MIRO was able to trap feral cats at the site.

Jones, a cat owner himself, wanted to see a national cat management strategy put in place to protect native species. As long as domestic cats were allowed to roam, native species would continue to be at risk, he said.

The banded dotterel is nationally vulnerable, the same conservation status as the great spotted kiwi.

  • If youd like to help monitor the banded dotterels, you can register your interest at


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