Unlike most terns which are seabirds, the tarapirohe/black-fronted tern lives and breeds inland, only visiting the coast to feed in autumn and winter.
Breeding is a risky business on braided riverbeds as they nest in colonies on open shingle – this gives the parents a better chance to notice predators and try and scare them away by diving, calling loudly and even flicking poop at them. The eggs and chicks are well camouflaged, but unlike other species young terns stay near the nest as they rely on parents bringing them food until the can fly and hunt themselves.
As well as introduced stoats, ferrets, feral cats and hedgehogs, kāhu/swamp harriers and karoro/black-backed gulls are also natural predators. Habitat loss and disturbance by humans also impact their survival.
During breeding season they feed on mayflies and stoneflies or small fish and earthworms, skinks and grass grub larvae. On the coast they enjoy planktonic crustaceans.
Photos : Renke Lunken, Charlotte Patterson