One of the main draw cards to Muriwai for tourists is the Gannet colony. Perhaps a little less known, or viewed are the smaller, but equally impressive Tern colony that rests a little lower down the cliff line on the south hills of the beach. Once owners of prime real-estate, these ‘large swallows of the ocean’ were booted out of their areas by the gannets in the 1970’s when they started nesting on the mainland. When you see the size difference between the two, its no surprise they no occupy the smaller ledges of the cliffs. That being said, all bullying aside, both groups of birds appear to thrive on these rocky ledges.
Sleek and quick, Terns are terrible nest makers. Or perhaps its not so much that they are terrible, but more that they hardly even bother. Around the world, they lay eggs on very sparse nests or branches – some on nothing at all. With clutches of 1-3 eggs, they usually group together in mass. Interestingly, they are even found at Antarctica. Although coastal sea birds, their plumage is not waterproof, so they dont rest in the sea.
Sadly, both in NZ and around the world, several species of Tern are endangered. We (Humans) didn’t help, buy eating masses of their eggs, and as in New Zealand, introduced species like Magpies have added to falling numbers of our Black Fronted Terns.
To finish on a positive note the white ones at Muriwai seem to be doing well and in mass!