Tara iti (New Zealand fairy tern) are New Zealand’s most endangered bird with fewer than 40 surviving today. This breeding season marks the fourth year of the Zoo’s conservation partnership with the Department of Conservation to hatch and hand-rear tara iti for release – with the goal to boost their numbers in the wild.

Earlier this summer, four juvenile birds were transferred from the Zoo to a purpose-built aviary within a predator-proof fenced area. Here, the chicks could develop safely, hone their flight skills and learn to fish ‘on the wing’, under the care of Zoo and DOC kaimahi, before joining the adult tara iti that frequent this area.

“Intensive management like this holds great promise for elevating numbers and eventually seeing the tara iti population reach the critical threshold at which they can again become self-sustaining,” explains Richard, our head of animal care and conservation.

One of the four Zoo-reared birds was large enough to be equipped with a GPS tracker prior to leaving the aviary at Te Arai, which has already started to provide valuable data to the conservation team. 

We’re proud to join forces with DOC, mana whenua and other partners to support this recovery initiative. Thank you to our sponsors at Mazda for driving our tara iti fieldwork by providing two dedicated vehicles for our bird team to use throughout the tara iti breeding season.