Saturday, 25 March 2017

Endangered Reef Herons - reporting sightings

Described as Nationally Endangered, there are only 300-500 reef herons left in New Zealand. I'm lucky to live in of the few places that they visit. It's a privilege to be able to watch them down among the rock pools and in the shallows.
Reef Heron showing breeding plumes on its back
Scientists are interested in sightings of this bird and you can report these through iNaturalistNZ or Project Hot Spot (although the focus of the latter is Taranaki). Before you send in a report - here's how to tell the difference between the endangered reef heron and the common white-faced heron. Both are called matuku moana in Māori.

How do you tell the difference between a white-faced heron and a reef heron?

Reef heron
Reef herons are dark grey, with greenish-yellow legs, and a yellow bill. They have a more hunched stance than white-faced herons.
White-faced heron
White-faced herons have a white face (adults), yellow legs and a grey bill. They are more likely to stand with their neck stretched.

What can you do to help endangered shore birds?
Reporting sightings is useful and helps scientists learn more enough about endangered birds. But what else can you do?

According to the Department of Conservation, threats to shore birds include:
  • Loss of habitat - for example subdivisions and developments
  • Predation - introduced predators such as cats, dogs, rats, stoats etc
  • Environmental threats - high tides, floods, storms - these affect nests or food sources
  • Loss of young - through parent birds being scared off nests or killed
  • People's recreational activities - people driving on beaches, disturbing nests
Here's some ideas of ways we can help counter these threats, some easy, some not so easy:
  • Help trap predators such as rats and stoats, join a local predator free group or volunteer to check traps.
  • Keep dogs on lead when going near bird nesting areas during the nesting season or when penguins are moulting.
  • If you have a cat, consider keeping it indoors and not replacing it.
  • Don't drive on beaches and keep away from nesting birds, try not to disturb feeding birds.
  • Find out about safe fishing practices as some shore birds such as shags can get caught in fishing lines.
  • Help keep beaches clean of rubbish, such as plastics.
  • As climate change is increasing environmental threats, consider what part you can play in reducing the impacts of climate change. 
Related blogs: 
Birds at the Beach - vulnerable and at risk

Useful links:
NZ Birds Online
Department of Conservation
Project Hot Spot