Hot Water Beach has a wide range of bird species due to the habitats within the area. Coastal, bush,
farmland and wetland areas, each add to the diversity of introduced, native and endemics.
Two of New Zealand’s uncommon endemic species, the New Zealand Dotterel (estimated at 1400
of the North Island subspecies) and the Variable Oystercatcher (4000) are breeding species on the
As both species nest just above the spring high tide mark, nesting can be affected by surf and storm
surges. Predation by hedgehogs, stoats, weasels, rats, other bird species and feral cats also take
their toll on the survival rate of chicks hatched during the breeding season.
It is critical for the survival of these species that protection of the beach area is paramount. During
the breeding season, care should be taken when walking the upper section of the beach and dogs
must be controlled. A dog does not differentiate between an endangered and a common bird. If
your dog tends to chase birds, please keep it on a leash if you are walking near fenced off nesting
New Zealand Dotterel, (Charadrius obscurus aquilonius North Island, obscurus obscurus Stewart
Island) also Tuturiwhatu, Red-breasted Dotterel.
Aquilonius is the subspecies found at Hot Water Beach. There are generally 4-6 resident birds year
round. Other birds will appear over the breeding season but will join other birds at flock sites after
breeding. The closest flock site to Hot Water beach is at the end of the Matarangi spit where 40-60 N.Z. Dotterel can be found over the non-breeding season.
The nest is a scrape in the sand just above spring high water mark. There are usually markers of
driftwood or seaweed close to the scrape. 2-3 eggs are laid and are pale olive to buff-brown. Both
sexes incubate for 28-32 days with the male usually sitting on the nest overnight. Chicks take 42-49
days to fledge. At this time they can join adult birds at flocking sites.
Juveniles start to breed after 2 years and tend to return to a particular breeding area every year.
One breeding bird at Hot Water beach is banded Left leg Metal (M), Right Leg black (K) over white
(W) over blue (B). MKWB was banded as a chick at Opoutere in 1991. He first breed at Hot Water
Beach in 1993 and in the 2013-2014 season was back again to give us 2 chicks. He is now 23 years
old. Records indicate N.Z. Dotterel have lived over 30 years with one bird possibly reaching 40 years.
MKWB returns to Matarangi after his chicks have fledged.
Variable Oystercatcher, (Haematopus unicolour) also Torea, Toreapango (black phase) Black
Variable Oystercatcher are found throughout New Zealand on coastal areas. In most instances, they
are found in pairs but occasionally they will collect in small groups. There are usually 2 pair at Hot
Water Beach, one pair at the northern end one pair at the southern however there are other pairs
around the rocky coast to the south, and beach’s to the north.
V.O.C. can have an intermediate phase and pied phase when they can be confused with the more
common South Island Pied Oystercatcher however V.O.C. are larger birds at 48cm and 725g while
S.I.P.O. are 46cm and 550g. S.I.P.O. usually flock at tidal areas and would be extremely unlikely to be
found at H.W.B.
(Material sourced from ‘The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand” Barrie Heather and Hugh Robertson. More information available from wwwNZbirdsonline.org).