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The New Zealand plover (Charadrius obscurus) is an endangered species found only in certain areas of New Zealand. Its Māori names include tūturiwhatu, pukunui, and kūkuruatu.

New Zealand plover
New Zealand Dotterel Waiheke Island.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Charadriidae
Genus: Charadrius
C. obscurus
Binomial name
Charadrius obscurus
Gmelin, 1789[1]

In 1990 these birds were nearing extinction with about 75 individuals remaining, but conservation measures increased this to 250 by 2005.



The first description of the species was provided by Johann Gmelin in the 1789 edition of Systema Naturae.[1] The population has been classified as two subspecies, Charadrius obscurus obscurus and Charadrius obscurus aquilonius. A taxonomic revision supported recognition of tentative species status for the two groups, and this was recognised in the Handbook of the Birds of the World (BirdLife, 2014) and in the conservation listing of the IUCN.[2][3]

A 2015 study found its closest relatives to be other plovers found in New Zealand, the nearest the wrybill (Anarhynchus frontalis), which the study found to be in the Charadrius clade, and then the double-banded plover or banded dotterel (Charadrius bicinctus).[4]

Other ommon names for birds include the southern red-breasted plover or New Zealand dotterel.

Distribution and habitatEdit

They are usually found on sandy beaches and sand spits or feeding on tidal estuaries. Charadrius obscurus is found at the South Island, the related C. aquilonius at the North Island. It occurs on Stewart Island/Rakiura, where the first study of the population structure undertaken from 1988 to 1992 indicated their significant decline.[5]


Parents lay eggs in the spring and summer. They nest on beaches above the high tide mark, and the nest is just a shallow hole dug in the ground, not made of twigs like a nest in a tree. The chicks hatch about 28 days after the eggs have been laid. Because the nests are on the ground, chicks can walk the day they hatch and can usually fly within 6–8 weeks.


The southerly subspecies (C. o. obscurus) is now only present on Stewart Island at the southern end of South Island and in 1990 its numbers had reduced to about 62 individual birds. Conservation measures were put in place involving the poisoning of feral cats and the population has gradually risen, with about 250 individuals being recorded in 2005. The northerly subspecies (C. o. aquilonius) has a wider range at the northerly end of the North Island and its population was about 1300 in 1989. It had recovered to about 1700 individuals by 2004 but only as a result of intensive management.

The IUCN, which treats the two subspecies as separate species, rates the northern subspecies as Near Threatened and the southern subspecies as Critically Endangered.[6][3]



  1. ^ a b Linné, Carl von; Gmelin, Johann Friedrich; Delamolliere, Jean-Baptiste (Lyon) (1789). Caroli a Linné ... Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species; cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. 2 (Editio decima tertia, aucta, reformata. / cura Jo. Frid. Gmelin. ed.). pp. 586–687.
  2. ^ "Northern Red-breasted Plover Charadrius aquilonius". BirdLife Data Zone. BirdLife International. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b IUCN (1 October 2017). "Charadrius obscurus: BirdLife International: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T62290750A126893184". doi:10.2305/
  4. ^ dos Remedios, Natalie; et al. (2015). "North or south? Phylogenetic and biogeographic origins of a globally distributed avian clade" (PDF). Phylogenetics and Evolution. 89: 151–159. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2015.04.010. PMID 25916188.
  5. ^ Dowding, John (1993). "Decline of the Stewart Island population of the New Zealand Dotterel". Notornis. 40 (1): 1–13.
  6. ^ IUCN (1 October 2016). "Charadrius aquilonius: BirdLife International: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T62291168A95195909". doi:10.2305/

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