DoC Hawke's Bay: Save the tarapuka

By Connie Norgate

The tarāpuka, or black billed gull, which has colonies in Hawke's Bay, is the most threatened gull species in the world.
The tarāpuka, or black billed gull, which has colonies in Hawke's Bay, is the most threatened gull species in the world.

The tarapuka or black billed gull needs your help.

This wee bird is only found in New Zealand and has the unfortunate status of being the most threatened gull species in the world. Stronghold populations have declined by as much as 80 per cent.

While breeding sites are mainly the large braided riverbeds of the South Island, there are scattered tarapuka colonies here in Hawke's Bay.

The tarapuka faces natural threats such as flooding - if it is nesting in a braided river system, predators and habitat loss through human activity.

So, in a bid to save this precious bird, DoC Hawke's Bay is asking if any member of the public who sees a tarapuka (from a distance) could email in the sighting with where and when it was seen.

A photo or video of the gull would be really helpful also. We are particularly interested in sightings of nesting birds.

Tarapuka share very similar looks to their close cousins the red-billed gull.

So when looking for this gull watch out for their long, thin black beaks, which are easily distinguished from the shorter and stouter bright red beak of the red-billed gull.

They are a similar size to red-billed gulls, but have paler wings and a thinner black border on the wingtips.

In winter black-billed gulls are more coastal, so are often seen in estuaries, coastlines, harbours, and coastal parks.

While sighting the birds is one thing, disturbing protected birds and destroying nests is an offence under the Wildlife Act 1953 and can result in imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

If you do sight tarapuka please email DoC Hawke's Bay's senior biodiversity ranger Denise Fastier at dfastier@doc.govt.nz.

Connie Norgate is operations manager for Department of Conservation's Hawke's Bay.

- Hastings Leader

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