Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Distribution, long term population trends and conservation status of banded dotterels (Charadrius bicinctus bicinctus) on braided rivers in New Zealand

TitleDistribution, long term population trends and conservation status of banded dotterels (Charadrius bicinctus bicinctus) on braided rivers in New Zealand
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsO'Donnell, CFJ, Monks, JM
Type of ArticleFull article
Keywordsendangered species, flows, meta-analysis, population trend, predators, rivers, weeds


Banded dotterels (tūturiwhatu, Charadrius bicinctus bicinctus) are small plovers inhabiting New Zealand’s braided rivers, estuaries, seashores, and open country. They are considered Nationally Vulnerable under national threat listing criteria, but with uncertainty around the trend estimation. We collated and reviewed counts of banded dotterels on their braided river breeding grounds from throughout the country, 1962–2017, to describe their distribution, assess population trends, estimate rates of population change, and assess the appropriateness of the threat status given to this species. We also used nationwide winter count data for banded dotterels from 1984 to 2018 as an independent measure to compare trends. Banded dotterel counts were recorded for 119 braided and shingle river reaches, mostly in the South Island (87%) with far fewer rivers in the North Island (13%). The sum of banded dotterel counts was 12,730 birds when tallying the most recent counts/river. Although they were most widespread in the South Island, particularly Canterbury, the majority (>50%) of dotterels counted on the most recent surveys were from just 10 (8%) rivers with the largest single concentrations on three Hawkes Bay rivers. Counts suitable for long-term trend analysis were only available for South Island sites. Widespread declines in banded dotterel count indices were recorded. The weighted mean annual rate of change across 33 South Island rivers was -3.7% p.a. (per annum), which equates to a 52.3% decline over 20 years (~3 generations). We also detected a negative trend in dotterel numbers based on national winter count data, but of a smaller magnitude (-1.4% p.a., equating to a 25% decline over 20 years). However, trends in Australia, where c. 60% of banded dotterels over-winter, are unknown. In contrast, a significant population increase was measured on the Hakatere Reach of the South Ashburton River, which has intensive, sustained predator control, and several predator trapping initiatives on other braided rivers and coastal areas indicate declines can be reversed with management if applied at an extensive landscape scale. Banded dotterels are subject to a wide range of threats including very high levels of predation by invasive predators, human disturbance on breeding grounds, and habitat loss and degradation. Using the precautionary principle, the rates of decline on South Island braided rivers confirm the classification of Nationally Vulnerable using the NZ Threat Classification system. However, results suggest that the IUCN threat status for banded dotterel should be reclassified from Least Concern to Endangered.


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