Go to the new Waikawa News site.
Sign up for the monthly Waikawa Newsletter.

Little dots: the Dotterels

Small bird with ruddy chest, on driftwood on the beach.
NZ Dotterel. Photo by Miraz Jordan.

Down close to the river, if you look really carefully, you might see the tiny Dotterels dashing around. I think they’re quite hilarious, the way they dash from one spot to another.

It was only on examining my photos closely that I discovered we have two kinds of dotterels at Waikawa Beach: the Banded Dotterel and the New Zealand Dotterel.

Small bird on the beach: dark above and white below with distinctive dark band below its neck.

The Tuturiwhatu, Banded dotterel above is slightly smaller and much lighter.

Length: 20 cm; Weight: 60 g
Similar species: Lesser sand plover, New Zealand dotterel
A small compact brown and white plover with a short black bill, relatively long dark legs and large round dark eyes. Breeding males have a broad chestnut breast band with a narrow black neck band above it; females have both bands but they are duller.

Small bird with ruddy chest, on driftwood on the beach.

The New Zealand dotterel above is a little heavier:

Length: 25 cm; Weight: 146 g (northern), 160 g (southern)
Similar species: Banded dotterel, Greater sand plover
A bulky plover with a heavy black bill, relatively long grey legs and large round dark eyes. The upperparts are brown and the underparts off-white, becoming orange-red from May, with the depth and extent of red varying individually and seasonally, and males generally being darker than females.

Keep a look out for them — they can be hard to spot.

Caveat: I’ve done my best to identify these birds but if you’re an expert and know better then please set me right.

This item was updated on Monday 14 March 2022

I live at Waikawa Beach and love all the wildlife, fauna and flora.