2018 Concert coming up soon

Date posted: 15-Feb-2018

Our 2018 concert will feature an afternoon of light classics and jazz courtesy of the Auckland Ph..

Wetapunga talk coming soon

Date posted: 05-Feb-2018

For the Social on 19 March the speaker will be Ben Goodwin of Auckland Zoo, who will talk about t..

Rat caught and now takahe released from pens

Date posted: 28-Jan-2018

Thankfully DOC staff Andre de Graaf and Polly Hall and their assistants have trapped the rat whic..

Your Christmas Shopping for a Song

Date posted: 04-Dec-2017

Aka - The Grand Christmas Shopping Expedition to Tiritiri Matangi Island Shop Dreading..

2018 Photo Comp opens for entries

Date posted: 27-Nov-2017

The 2018 Photo Competition is now open for entries. Click here (/2018-photo-competition-tiritiri-mat..

New reports on ruru nesting and Island conservation

Date posted: 02-Oct-2017

Two new reports have been added to the website. The first gives details of a summer students..

2018 calendars now available

Date posted: 27-Sep-2017

Our latest calendar, beautifully illustrated with images taken on the Island, is now available fo..

Guided walks for photographers

Date posted: 21-Jun-2017

For a wonderful day of wildlife photography please join us on Tiritiri Matangi Island for a Ph..

Ferry discounts for Supporters

Date posted: 18-May-2017

Tiritiri Matangi Island, the perfect winter's day trip. The birds are at their best, warm up w..

More kiwi for the Island

Date posted: 04-Apr-2017

In 1993 and 1995, sixteen little spotted kiwi were released on Tiritiri Matangi Island. The ma..

New Zealand Dotterel

Scientific name:

Charadrius obscurus aquilonius

Maori Name:




Conservation status: Endemic, Nationally vulnerable

Mainland status:

Fairly widespread around the northern North Island, sparse further south. South Island subspecies is much rarer.


25cm, 145g


Oldest bird lived over 31 yrs and one individual, 'Wimble', may have lived 42 yrs if worn band numbers were read correctly.


August - February


Aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates


NZ Dotterel on rock - photographer: Max McRaeThis large squat dotterel has a large head, a heavy black bill with a slightly upturned tip and proportionately short olive-grey legs. The breeding adult has brown upper parts, finely streaked dark brown and whitish feather edges and pale orange-buff to rich rufous underparts. The non-breeding adult has pale grey-brown upper parts with broad whitish feather edges and the underparts are white with an obscure pale grey-brown breast band often restricted to just the shoulders. The call, often accompanied by head bobbing, is a penetrating 'chrp', 'trrt' or 'prrp' and a high pitched 'pweep' when disturbed.

The diet consists mainly of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, small fish, crabs, sandhoppers, insects, spiders and earthworms.

There are two subspecies, the larger more boldly coloured Southern NZ Dotterel (obscurus) which breeds on Stewart Island (under 300 left) and the smaller Northern NZ Dotterel (aquilonius) which breeds in Northland, Auckland, the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Northern Hawke’s Bay and some off shore islands (c 2200 birds in 2011).

NZ Dotterel - photographer Dr Kerry RodgersNorthern NZ dotterel breed on sandspits, at stream mouths, on beaches, shellbanks, sandbanks and low dunes. The nest, a scrape in the sand, with little or no lining, is often near a marker such as a piece of driftwood, seaweed or a clump of vegetation. The clutch of 2-3 pale, olive to buff-brown eggs with dark brown blotches is laid from August onwards. Both sexes incubate for 28-32 days, females mostly by day and males mostly at night.  The fledgling period is 6-7 weeks and the juveniles wander for about 18 months. They usually breed in their second year.

Breeding birds are often disturbed by humans, their dogs, vehicles and stock, which crush eggs and chicks. Stoats, feral cats, hedgehogs and black-backed gulls also predate both eggs and chicks. Changing habitat has also caused a decline in breeding sites, but both subspecies have responded to protective management and have increased in number.

Northern NZ dotterel in the past occasionally bred on the reef of Tiritiri Matangi but not in recent years. In the 2003/2004 breeding season there were regular sightings on a NZ dotterel but no evidence of breeding.

Learn more about the New Zealand dotterel at New Zealand Birds Online.

Photography by: Max McRae © (top)and by Dr Kerry Rodgers © (bottom)
References: Heather, B.D.; Robertson, H.A. 2000 The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Auckland, Viking.
Moon, G The Reed Field Guide to New Zealand Birds.