Double-banded Plover uplisted to Near Threatened.
The Double-banded Plover Charadrius bicinctus has been added to the list of waders or shorebirds that are Near Threatened. They are undergoing declines so severe that they are causing concern and warranting a place on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
Known more widely among birders in New Zealand as Banded Dotterels, these attractive birds display a unique migration strategy. The birds that breed in the highlands of the South Island, once their breeding is completed, head out across the Tasman sea to spend the southern winter in Australia. The rest of the population on the other hand, make local movements remaining in New Zealand outside the breeding season.
So what is it that is making this species’ population decline so alarmingly?
Double-banded Plovers are ground nesting birds. This alone makes them more vulnerable than most when it comes to protecting their eggs and chicks with natural predators and natural hazards to contend with. Sadly, the days of these birds having to cope with just natural disasters and foes is long gone, and now they have to run the gauntlet of so many other threats to their reproductive success. These threats come in the form of introduced predators and loss of habitat due to human activities, be that development or simply recreation.
Nesting on the ground makes a nest highly susceptible to being located by mammalian predators. Naturally there are none in New Zealand, but now there are many that have been introduced since humans arrived on the islands; cats, both domestic and feral, hedgehogs, stoats, foxes and even the much admired (in other parts of the world) hedgehog is responsible for many eggs being lost. These problems are shared by both populations of Double-banded Plovers, but those in the highlands are also affected by the growth of invasive plants making their habitat unsuitable for their purposes.
The birds that nest on beaches face another barrage of threats. Many birds are lost each year (eggs, chicks and adults alike) due to the use by humans of the beaches. The most popular time for people to visit the beach coincides with the birds’ breeding season when they are incredibly sensitive to stressful situations involving people, dogs and vehicles. Unleashed dogs are responsible for the killing of unfledged birds that are unable to fly away to escape their jaws, adults can be run over by speeding vehicles on the beach, and young and eggs crushed under the wheels. Eggs are also stepped on accidently by people walking on beaches. Even if the eggs and chicks escape crushed, sometimes the stress caused to the adult birds by the proximity of people and dogs can cause them to desert or stay away from their unprotects eggs and young so long that they die of cold or overheating. Whilst the young and eggs are unprotected they are also open to predation by observant predators such as crows and gulls.
A lot of effort is put into protecting these birds by organisations and individuals alike, but they are fighting a losing battle a lot of the time as people seem unwilling to change their ways to accommodate the birds and give them a little space to breed.
Extinction is final, there is no coming back from that, and the route to extinction is the inability of adult birds to reproduce and replace themselves when they die. Is it too much to ask to give them a little peace, for what amounts to a few short weeks each year, just so that we can be enjoying the sights and sounds of these pretty and engaging little birds for many years to come?