What’s in our pond?
MĀORI: WEWEIAENGLISH: New Zealand DABCHICK
The endemic Weweia/NZ dabchick (Poliocephalus rufopectus) is a specialised aquatic bird of the grebes family. They live in freshwater ponds, lakes, and dams. They build floating nests in shallow water anchored to reeds or overhanging vegetation.
They were formerly widespread in NZ but suffered declines and became extinct in the South Island in the 1940s. The current distribution is scattered and restricted to the North Island and two sites in the SI where they have recently re-colonised. The total population is estimated at 1900-2000 individuals.
- habitat loss and degradation (e.g. drainage of wetlands) poor water quality
- increased disturbance (e.g. jet skiing, boats)
- predation by introduced pests (e.g. rats, mustelids)
Nests are prone to flooding and disturbance when water level changes and eggs are particularly vulnerable to predation by Norway rats and other predators that like to live near water and are good swimmers (e.g. stoats).
They are classified as ‘At Risk’ and ‘recovering’ because of a predicted increase in population due to ongoing protection and their ability to use human-made habitats such as farm dams and stormwater ponds.
- Their lobed feet are perfectly adapted to the aquatic environment and can propel them to high speed
- They dive to feed underwater for up to 40 seconds and can reach a depth of 4 m
- They can adjust buoyancy by puffing or pressing their waterproof feathers against their body
- They can fly long distances and travel only at night (they can cross the Cook Straight!)
- Chicks ride their parent’s back for the first three weeks
In our area
Our area is an important stronghold for this species, which is present in lakes, farm ponds, dams, water treatment plants and stormwater ponds in north Rodney.
In the east, you can try to spot them at Omaha stormwater pond at the end of Mangatawhiri Rd.
In the west, keep an eye for them at the reservoir at Atiu Creek Regional Park (Tapora).
They are also present at several lakes in South Kaipara head where Birds NZ and South Kaipara Lancare conducts annual monitoring with help of many volunteers since 1969.
Bonus tip: Why not try to spot them at the ponds next to Westfield Albany Mall on your next trip to the city? Make sure to bring your binoculars!
Want to help?
- If you have a pond or farm dam at your property, make sure you do predator control to protect the birds as they often breed in such small water bodies, also good to encourage vegetation to provide protection.
- If you see a Dabchick, upload your record to one of the public databases (eBird, iNaturalist) or email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can better estimate their numbers and distribution.
- Volunteer for the annual Dabchick count at South Kaipara lakes Anzac Day, 25th April each year (contact Denise Poyner from Birds NZ – email@example.com)
- Learn more nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/new-zealand-dabchick