Record oystercatcher chick at Tahuna Torea

This summer Tōrea pango / Variable Oystercatcher have nested for the first time at Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve (written records began in the 1970’s). Its also the first time any bird has nested on the man-made shorebird roosts (or islands) in the lagoon. Tōrea Pango are recovering from being threatened with extinction and are one of the most endangered breeding birds in the Eastern Songbird Project area. The nearest breeding area is Motukorea / Browns Island which is a population sink for the species. The reserves name ‘torea’ does not come from this species but the South Island Pied Oystercatcher which once gathered here in great numbers.

The two egg nest was laid days after I trimmed the vegetation on Kuaka Island mid November 2023 as part of a roost restoration project. A team of local bird watchers kept a close eye on the nest. The mud in the lagoon keeps the cats out, but not the rats, the trapping team stepped up efforts and rats stopped turning up on the trail camera. One of the eggs was not fertile but the other one was and the bird watching team was thrilled when a chick hatched just in time for Christmas.

Tōrea Pango Chick on Kuaka Island. Photo by Shaun Lee.

The nest would not likely have survived a kiteboarding event in the lagoon. Thanks to the kiteboarders for volunteering to stop kiting in the lagoon at high tide. If you do see anyone kiting in the lagoon phone me 021 555 425 and I’ll have a chat to them.

Tōrea pango whanau at Cable Beacon Point. Photo by Basil Avery.

It was interesting that after nesting on Kuaka Island where I had trimmed vegetation and where a small amount of mangroves have been removed (not the majority) the parents then took the chick 400 m southeast to Cable Beacon Point. New mangrove stumps here were used by the chick to hide. I put up a sign and the bird watchers were on high alert for a few weeks until the chick fledged. The Tōrea pango whanau have stayed in the area which is a great endorsement of the reserve from our feathered friends and a huge win for our shorebird habitat restoration efforts.

The fledged Tōrea pango chick. Photo by Shaun Lee.