Threatened birds found in Ashley

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 05:00 23/12/2013
Wrybills ashley
STEVE ATTWOOD
UNIQUE: Wrybills nesting on the Ashley River.

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Various threatened native bird species have been spotted near a North Canterbury river.

The Ashley-Rakahuri Rivercare Group survey found 19 wrybills on the Ashley River between its confluence with the Okuku River and the State Highway 1 bridge, the highest number recorded in 13 years.

Group spokesman Nick Ledgard said 19 birds "might not seem a big deal to most people", but wrybill were unique to New Zealand and bred only on Canterbury's braided rivers.

They were classed as threatened and nationally vulnerable, with only around 5000 birds remaining.

Other threatened endemic birds were also nesting on the river, with the group recording an increase in the number of endangered black-fronted terns and black-billed gulls.

"The black-billed gull is an inland specialist, not a 'sea' gull. It recently had its conservation status lifted to nationally critical and the population is in serious decline," Ledgard said.

The braided channels of the Ashley River and the clean shingle islands between were important feeding and breeding grounds for several species of native birds, including banded dotterels, pied stilts and South Island pied oystercatchers.

In all, 14 species were counted during the annual survey.

The group formed in 1999 to assist with management of the lower reaches of the Ashley River.

Its main aims are to protect birds and their habitat in the riverbed, to monitor breeding success, and to promote these activities to the wider public.

Awareness campaigns, regular trapping and bird monitoring are among the activities carried out.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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