Bird expert warns public about special gulls
Endangered gulls, which ornithologists fear could become extinct, are nesting near Rangiora.
A colony of about 350 black-billed gulls, which are only found in New Zealand, are nesting on the Ashley River just outside Rangiora.
The gull is classified as "nationally critical" - one step away from extinction.
Ornithologist John Dowding said there were about 70,000 black-billed gulls in the country, with 95 per cent in the South Island. Of that 70,000, about 10 per cent were in Canterbury.
"These are the most endangered gulls in the world," he said.
He said the decline rate was a "vertical drop" of about 75 per cent in the last 30 years.
Last year, more than 50 black-billed gulls were stoned to death at the same spot where the colony is now.
That, along with people shooting them for target practice, four-wheel driving and carelessly walking through colonies had contributed to the birds' declining status.
"People think they are 'fish and chip' scavenging seagulls, not black-billed gulls."
Dowding said it was easy to mistake a black-billed gull for a seagull, but people needed to learn the difference.
He said people should not hurt birds, or drive or let dogs out in the braided rivers during the gulls' breeding season, between September to January, as this disturbed the population.
Last week, Dowding was by the Ashley River checking on the black-fronted tern, the wrybill and the banded dotterell.
"Just about all of these species are in trouble to a greater or lesser degree."
- © Fairfax NZ News