New Zealand's most endangered bird has had a helping hand from the Defence Force.
With the fairy tern on the brink of extinction, the Airforce has joined forces with the Department of Conservation to create a safe nesting area along one of Northland's most spectacular shorelines.
Essentials for the critically endangered fairy tern unloaded with military precision.
“We've got the NH90 here and Seasprite and were taking the shells that are going to build a habitat,” says flight commander, Matt Pit.
This operation set to transform the sand dunes at Tara Iti beach at Mangawhai into a perfect home.
“Fairy terns have in the past laid their nest in less than ideal spots so we are creating these nice safe spots for them to use to reduce the risk of losing a nest,” says biodiversity ranger, Ayla Wiles.
The cargo? 50 tonnes of sand and shell, the favourite nest material of the birds.
“It’s a natural product, so it comes from the ocean floor,” says Ms Wiles.
While there's no fairy terns to be seen in Mangawhai at the moment, they are expected to arrive for nesting in a few weeks’ time. The first eggs are expected to be laid by early December.
Once all around the North Island, there are now only four fairy tern nesting sites - all in Northland and Auckland.
This site will provide protection from wind and high tides allowing the birds to create a nest by scraping a small hollow in the sand.
But their eggs and chicks are vulnerable to predators – there are now less than 40 and fewer than a dozen breeding pairs.
“Coming off the back of the last breeding season we had seven chicks fledge so they are on an upward spiral at the moment and we've also been putting more resource into them,” says Ms Wiles.