Charadrius obscurus

Physical Description

The Tūturiwhatu, also known as the Dotterel, is a small shorebird with a distinctive appearance. It has a slender body, long legs, and a short, straight bill. The plumage of the adult birds is primarily greyish-brown, with a white underbelly and a white stripe above the eye. They have a black cap on their head, and males may develop a more distinct black breast band during the breeding season. Juvenile birds have a more mottled appearance and lack the black cap.

Habitat and Range

Tūturiwhatu/Dotterels are coastal birds that inhabit sandy beaches, dunes, and estuarine environments. They are found along the coastlines of both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. They prefer areas with open sand or gravel substrate to forage for food and construct their nests.

Feeding Habits

Tūturiwhatu/Dotterels are primarily carnivorous and feed on various invertebrates. Their diet includes small insects, worms, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates found in the sand or shallow water. They use their bill to probe and pick at the sand for prey.

Breeding and Nesting

Tūturiwhatu/Dotterels have a breeding season that typically starts in late spring or early summer. They form monogamous pairs, and the female lays a clutch of 1-3 eggs. The nest is a simple scrape in the sand, often lined with shell fragments or other debris. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and share the responsibilities of raising the chicks once they hatch. They are highly protective of their nest and young, performing distraction displays and vocalising loudly to deter potential threats.

Conservation Status

The Tūturiwhatu/Dotterel is classified as "Nationally Vulnerable" by the New Zealand Threat Classification System. The species faces threats from habitat loss due to coastal development, predation by introduced mammals (such as rats, stoats, and cats), disturbance from human activities, and the impacts of climate change. Conservation efforts focus on predator control, habitat management, and public education to protect their nesting sites and promote awareness of their conservation needs.

Trees and Plant Preferences

Tūturiwhatu/Dotterels do not have specific tree or plant preferences as they primarily inhabit coastal environments with sandy beaches and dunes.

Interesting Facts

  • Tūturiwhatu/Dotterels are known for their distinctive "run-stop-peck" foraging behaviour. They run along the shore, stop abruptly, and peck at the sand to capture prey.
  • They have a unique breeding strategy known as "brood amalgamation." Multiple nests may be located close together, and after hatching, the chicks from different nests may join together, forming a larger group that is cared for by multiple adults.
  • Tūturiwhatu/Dotterels are highly adapted to their beach habitat. Their cryptic plumage provides camouflage against the sand, and they can blend in perfectly with their surroundings.
  • They are considered an indicator species for the health of coastal ecosystems, as their population size and breeding success reflect the overall condition of the coastal environment.