By John Keast
Dozens of birds are helping children and adults recognise the importance of Canterbury’s braided rivers to a variety of birds.
The birds, though, are not real, but creations of schoolchildren and community groups around Canterbury.
The life-size models are of the critically endangered black billed gull and the threatened or declining wrybill, banded dotterel, pied stilt and pied oyster catcher.
To publicise the return of these birds to Canterbury rivers, including the Ashburton River, children and groups created “flocks” of birds by painting the various shapes.
The birds are now “flying” into various towns to raise awareness of the birds, and settled briefly on Tuesday at Methven.
Edith Smith, of BRaid (Braided River Aid) explained the importance of the birds and the threats they face from humans, vehicles, cats and stoats. Models of the predators have also been created.
The “flock” will move later to Rakaia.
In the past month or so about 600 of the critically endangered black billed gull – not to be confused with the common black-backed gull – have gathered around the Ashburton River to find a suitable shingle weed-free area to nest on.
The black-billed gulls and black-fronted terns eat bugs and worms, built nests on clean shingle braids, nest in colonies from September to February and are found only in New Zealand.
Black-billed gulls breed in large colonies but are just one step from extinction.
Numbers have dropped dramatically and colonies only produce a handful of chicks that survive to adulthood.