Lyttelton’s Own Bird Sanctuary

02 February 2024

Fifty White Fronted Terns have claimed an area of an old timber wharf near the Cruise Berth as their nesting site for the summer.

Named for their white patch separating their beak and black “cap”, White Fronted Terns nest in coastal areas around New Zealand from October to February before dispersing.

Some head to the warmer temperatures of Australia for winter, while others will stay closer to home.

While the defensive swooping from some nesting birds can cause trouble in some areas of the port, the Cruise Berth site is out of the way of operations, fully fenced and protected from predators and dogs, which provides a prime breeding sanctuary.

The birds have made themselves at home, nesting in the cavities of old cross beams and laying their eggs in no more than a couple of sticks resembling a nest.

The adult birds sit on the nests in the same orientation, facing into the wind, with both males and females sharing the incubation duties.

The eggs hatched in December, and the walnut-sized chicks were seen poking their heads out from under the safety of their parents.

A pair of 8 week old Terns getting ready to fly the coup near the Cruise Berth. Photo / LPC

Over the Christmas break, they have grown considerably, have started to fly and are ready to leave the hatchery.

It’s not just Terns taking advantage of the on-port sanctuary; red-billed gulls have also claimed the adjacent sea wall for nesting, and many chicks have developed feathers and fledge.