Shoal Bay Birds

Shoal Bay, sometimes confused with Little Shoal Bay, is the area of water that you see on your right when travelling North on Highway One, from the Auckland harbour bridge. 

Shoal bay is home to a wide diversity of wildlife. The entire bay has a Department of Conservation ‘Site of Special Wildlife Interest’ (SSWI) designation. It’s an Auckland Council land and marine site of ‘ecological significance and has many outstanding natural features including shell barrier beaches similar to those found at Miranda.
Wrybill roosting (resting) on the shell banks at Shoal Bay waiting to feed at low tide.

The bay is an important food source for shorebirds and the SSWI designation is partly due to the 5 species of birds that the estuary regularly supports as a valuable feeding site. These include the endangered, endemic, New Zealand dotterel , the reef heron, banded dotterel,  Caspian tern and wrybill (a winter visitor from  the braided rivers of the  South Island).

NZ dotterel in breeding plumage
Shoal bay is the only place in the North Island that the Southern dotterel and NZ North Island dotterel have been seen together.       Ref.  NZ Shorebirds -  Keith Woodley 

Shoal Bay is also home to many other species including oystercatcher, pied shag, white faced heron, pied stilt, great shag, pied shag, little pied shag, spur-winged plover, kingfisher and bar-tailed godwit. All of these birds feed here. Some species breed here too and are very vulnerable to continual disturbance and predation.

 At least 12 of these species of birds are Nationally threatened or at risk species.

Caspian Tern
Eastern bar-tailed godwits feed on the intertidal mud flats. Seeking food is an important intensive process requiring access to the intertidal zones They can be seen until March before their long migration to Alaska to breed. .

Bar-tailed godwit
Shorebirds need a lot of undisturbed time to forage for small invertebrates in the sand and mud. Disturbance could jeopardize a birds ability to put on the correct weight in preparation for a very long migratory journey.

Variable Oystercatchers with young
The harder substrate of the shell barrier beaches are good nesting places for a variety of species. Variable oystercatcher nested here this summer and had three chicks, one subsequently died. Young chicks are very vulnerable to disturbance by people and running barking or just the presence of dogs.