Tara iti or fairy tern are Aotearoa’s rarest endemic bird with fewer than 40 individuals left in the wild. Recently wild weather has impacted beach nesting sites in Northland, and when severe winds were forecast, our conservation partners at the Department of Conservation stepped in to bring the nine eggs to Auckland Zoo for incubation.
Tara iti nest on the beach just above high tide, leaving them vulnerable to stormy weather such as high tides and strong winds. The species is also vulnerable to predation and disturbance by people and vehicles, so all nest sites are fenced off.
Our bird keepers are pleased to be able to use their expertise to help this endangered bird and team leader Carl says, “Our part in this team effort is incubating these eggs under the exact climatic conditions that they would have in the wild. As ‘egg parents’ we’re also mimicking the parents’ behaviour by turning the eggs several times a day and setting the incubators on a ‘slow rocker’ to replicate how their parents naturally move. This rocking movement also helps mix up the nutrients and protein within the egg that feed the embryo as it’s developing.”
You can help tara iti in the wild by staying away from taped or fenced-off areas, using designated walkways, following dog and vehicle bylaws and taking any rubbish with you when you leave the beach. We’ll keep you updated as this mahi progresses!