New Zealand Fairy Terns

The New Zealand Fairy Tern (Sterna nereis davisae) also known as tara-iti is a small tern which breeds on the lower half of the Northland Peninsula of the North Island of New Zealand, and is the smallest tern breeding in New Zealand. It is a subspecies of the Fairy Tern.

Breeding is limited to three regular sites: Waipu, Mangawhai, and the South Kaipara Head. The wintering range of the birds extends over the Kaipara Harbour. Outside of the breeding season fairy terns form flocks on the harbour, often around Tapora.


The total population 36 individuals including 10 breeding pairs and the species is critically endangered.

It nests on sand and shell banks just above high tide mark and nesting is highly vulnerable to introduced predators, domestic animals, storms, very high tides and disturbance by humans on foot and in vehicles on the beach.

The bird is further threatened by a proposed residential subdivision at Te Arai, next to one of its prime breeding sites.

Students At Future Problem Solving

In the Future Problem Solving competition that closed in 2009, four students did much work advocating the survival of the fairy tern and were awarded second place. Their work has helped dramatically in raising awareness for the bird.

Photo of author

Team Beauty of Birds's team of experts includes veterinarians, biologists, environmentalists and active bird watchers. All put together, we have over half a century of experience in the birding space.

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