Suspected dog attack leads 500 critically endangered seagulls to abandon their nests

The bodies of several seagulls were found dead around the nesting site after an alleged dog attack.

G. BARNES / Supplied with

The bodies of several seagulls were found dead around the nesting site after an alleged dog attack.

One of the main breeding colonies of the endangered native bird season has collapsed, and experts believe a dog was to blame.

Around 500 threatened black-billed gulls that weathered the Canterbury floods last week have given up their nesting grounds in the upper Waimakariri River near Woodstock.

Now there are only a few abandoned eggs and the bodies of two dead seagulls left.

Black-billed gulls or Tarāpuka are considered nationally critical – just as endangered as Kākāpō.

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David Owen, Canterbury’s Braided Rivers Biodiversity Advisor (ECan) said the council’s ornithologist suspected a canine attack was responsible.

The dead birds appeared to have broken bones and were carried away by the colony uneaten, he said.

The colony, too, collapsed suddenly and without warning.

“Every avoidable bird death is a massive blow to our local ecology.

“The nesting site where the birds were found appeared to be one of the most important nesting sites for the season due to the number and types of species present there.”

Hundreds of nests along the Waimakariri River have since been abandoned.

G. BARNES / Supplied with

Hundreds of nests along the Waimakariri River have since been abandoned.

While ECan couldn’t say for sure that the colony collapse was caused by a dog, Owen said it was still a sad reminder of the fragility of braided river birds and the importance of being careful along the way – “dog in tow or not “.

“It is important to consider how our presence could affect our native species, especially birds during their nesting season. Braided river birds nest between rocks, so it is often difficult for us to see their eggs.

“Dogs and other predators can, however, sniff them out and easily decimate entire nesting sites within a short period of time, and vehicles can also significantly impair nesting sites.”

Edith Smith / stuff

DOC classifies the black-billed gull as nationally critical – but few people know how rare it is (first published January 2018)

Owen said the colony had received extensive volunteer support, some even stationed nearby to educate river users about the nests and their vulnerabilities.

“We’re really grateful to these people for their support, that’s encouraging. It is essentially about needing more of these measures to protect these bird species. “

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has placed restrictions on dogs in public nature reserves to protect endangered wildlife, especially during the spring and summer breeding season.

Several of the abandoned nests on the Waimakariri River.

G. BARNES / Supplied with

Several of the abandoned nests on the Waimakariri River.

People can check the DOC website to see if their dogs are allowed, and trails can be filtered by dog ​​access.

Dogs should be kept under control at all times as they can easily become overexcited with native species, DOC said.

People bringing pups to the beach are urged to keep an eye out for penguins and seals, and anyone bringing them camping should arrange for any permits required in advance.

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