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Powerful forces combine to make tara iti, NZ Fairy Tern, Bird of the Year

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

This year, in a flurry of flapping excitement, the Endangered Species Foundation has teamed up with the Bird Cage Tavern, Garage Project, Mcleod’s Brewery, Save Our Sands Mangawhai Pakiri and the New Zealand Fairy Tern Trust to generate votes for the tara iti to win this year's Bird of the Year competition.

Photo: Jacob Ball, DoC

The tara iti deserves to be the Forest and Bird, Bird of the Year says the Endangered Species Foundation, which advocates for Aotearoa’s most endangered species.

“At last count there were only 37 of these birds left in the world,” says General Manager Natalie Jessup. “It is our most endangered bird and it’s habitat is under grave threat from sand mining and rapid sand erosion. It is also a taonga species for Te Whānau o Pakiri who are tāngata whenua of this area.”

Together these organisations have joined forces to increase votes and raise awareness of what needs to be done to save this tiny bird, which has chicks the size of bumble bees.

Photo of tara iti chick at five hours old - Robyn Searle

There are just ten breeding pairs left and of these, seven pairs nest on the dunes in the Mangawhai Pakiri area,” says Heather Rogan from the NZ Fairy Tern Trust.
“We all need to play a part in saving these precious birds, from avoiding nesting sites, keeping dogs on leads, and now voting for the tara iti to raise awareness of its plight.”

The tara iti is the canary in the coal mine for this area, which is a diversity hotspot and home to 26 at risk or endangered birds, as well as marine life including whai (stingrays) and whales. However, despite huge sand erosion, and ecosystem collapse, sand mining is currently happening on a massive scale at Pakiri and Mangawhai. McCallum Bros Limited has also applied to extract sand from the Pakiri Beach shoreline for another 35-years.

“The dunes on the beaches at Mangawhai and Pakiri are now highly eroded, putting the habitat of the tara iti in grave danger,” says Natalie. “There has already been massive sand loss and there is no more to give.”

Image: Board walk hangs above the ground due to massive sand erosion at Mangawhai Heads Beach

The Birdcage Tavern in Auckland has thrown its support behind this endangered taonga species to help raise funds and awareness of the tara iti.

“Protecting the environment is really important to me as I would like my children and my children’s children to still be able to experience the great wildlife this country has to offer,” says Lara Williamson, General Manager / Owner of The Birdcage Tavern.
“We found out that New Zealand has over 7500 species, which are at risk of extinction. In such a small country this is mind blowing. Of this, our most endangered bird is the Tara iti and we were shocked at how little awareness this bird has considering that it is nearly extinct, so we decided to reach out to our suppliers and patrons so we can all do something to help.

Image: Natalie and Lara at The Birdcage Tavern

Please vote!

When voting opens, please vote for the tara iti and encourage your friends and whānau to do the same. Voting for Bird of the Year 2022 will open at 9.00am on Monday 17 October and closes at 5.00pm on Sunday 30 October, with the winner announced on the morning of Monday 31 October.

Vote Tara Iti to be Bird of the Year at

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