Endemic tūturiwhatu or New Zealand dotterels are adapting to concrete human developments: ‘Our airfield’s become a real sanctuary for them’
Humans are pretty good at destroying the natural habitat of birds and animals. However, somewhere between the creation of a natural habitat by nature and destruction by humans, the New Zealand dotterel—also known as the endemic tūturiwhatu—in New Zealand have adapted to the Auckland airport’s green lands for nesting and egg laying. According to RNZ, there are barely over 2500 endangered tūturiwhatu left in the country and the grassy areas of the airport are proving to be a comfortable space for the dotterels to lay eggs and set up home. Even though the airport is a harbor of noise pollution, one might think that the concrete that the airport is made up of would drive any species far away from it but what is one’s loss is another’s gain and that seems to be coming true for these endangered tūturiwhatu.
The Auckland airport wildlife manager Lucy Hawley shared the reason why these dotterels are turning to the airport’s grassy areas. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is what’s driving these little birds here. The high fencing around the airport perimeter keeps the birds safe from their predators which makes it a safe sanctuary for them to grow their family of little tūturiwhatu.
Hawley further shared, “This is very attractive to nesting dotterels and our airfield’s become a real sanctuary for them.” She added that the birds don’t seem to be having a problem with the giant planes taking off. "These tiny little birds take absolutely no notice of the giant planes moving all around them and have no issues setting up home right beside the taxiways," Hawley revealed.
She also shared that the airport staff was actively involved in the well-being of the birds and that they record the nests and birds regularly to keep track of their safety. She said, “We love doing our part to help this important species to breed.” The tūturiwhatu are not a new addition to the airport and in fact, are quite a regular occurrence around the month of October. Hawley shared the statistics, “Each year we get between eight and twelve dotterels nesting at the airport."
Bird of the week is the tūturiwhatu also known as New Zealand dotterel, Did you know that the NZ dotterels are very territorial, and often pretend to have a broken wing to lure people away from their nests? pic.twitter.com/2f3rl9vdQl— BirdSearchNZ (@BirdSearchNZ) February 12, 2019
She also mentioned that in the last 10 years, they would have seen at least 80 dotterels “hatch on the airfield” and that’s a matter of “pride” for them. The number is expected to rise with more pairs arriving between November and the festive Christmas time. The airport team also shared that they are looking to partner with certified bird banders who can work on banding the birds to track their nesting behavior.
This unique behavior of the endangered species tūturiwhatu or New Zealand dotterels is giving hope for the adaptation of birds to the extreme levels of human civilization that are taking over their natural habitat. It looks like the birds are cleverly utilizing human development to their advantage and practicing some forward-thinking of survival. While this is good news for Auckland airport, it doesn’t make up for the climate change that’s seriously struck the planet, but behaviors like these could provide further information on how to deal with the disappearance of natural habitats for endangered beings.
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