Kaikōura's 'miracle' dotterel chick successfully grows into young adulthood after cat attack

After several long weeks, a "miracle" banded dotterel chick hatched after a cat attack has now fledged and has left his parents' nest in Kaikōura's South Bay. 

Miracle the banded dotterel is now a young adult after his egg (left) was badly damaged by a hunting cat. Source: Supplied

The chick, named Miracle by local researcher and advocate Ailsa Howard, is now a young adult, seven weeks after his rough beginning. 

In early December, Howard discovered the nest after it was attacked by a cat, badly damaging one of the eggs. 

When she heard the chick inside the egg, she put it back with its parents - and it managed to hatch successfully. 

Now seven weeks on, Miracle has fledged and left his parents' nest, ready to begin his life as a young adult bird. 

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'Miracle chick' hatches after cat attack at vulnerable dotterel nesting site in Kaikōura

"I'm always invested in the chicks because that's the hope of the population moving forwards," Howard told 1 NEWS today. 

"In the sense that his start was so terrible... we all love a story about something succeeding against the odds. I'm personally so happy and I noticed that the story touched people's hearts." 

Miracle's now "well and truly independent", Howard says, ready for the birds' usual migration patterns. 

When he leaves, she's not sure if she'll see him again. 

Miracle the banded dotterel. Source: Supplied

"Miracle's in a very good position to survive now but you know, we might see Miracle back next year, we don't know," she says. 

"If we don't see him again, he might have passed away, but it's mostly likely to mean he's in an area that we aren't monitoring." 

Banded dotterels are native to New Zealand and considered nationally vulnerable. 

At the South Bay site, Miracle is one of only a handful of chicks to survive the breeding season. 

Adult birds, their eggs and chicks have faced predation by cats, a mixture of domestic and feral moggies hunting the dotterel. 

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In this 2018 footage, a cat can be seen licking and biting at the native birds' eggs. Source: Supplied

Other nests have been disturbed by human interaction, people trampling the hidden nests or riding over them in quad bikes, or wiped out by the tide. 

This breeding season ended three weeks early due to the devastation, according to Howard. 

"We've got two chicks away and that's so poor, that's such a terrible result," Howard says. 

"It's still really difficult to ascertain how many adult birds we lost. We'll get some idea of how the predation actually affected the site. We think it's been pretty catastrophic." 

Before the next breeding season, Howard plans to work towards publishing her research from the past six years of monitoring the South Bay dotterels.  

A destroyed banded dotterel nest in Kaikōura after the eggs were eaten. Source: Supplied

She'll also be looking at ways to help safeguard the future generations. 

"That can help lead the conversation to protecting status for New Zealand wildlife," Howard says. 

"Particularly addressing the issue about how we can have people who love cats and love to have cats, how we can have them engaged and involved in keeping our birds safe. That'll mean that difficult conversation." 

To help protect the birds and other natives, Howard would like to see regional bylaws and other legislation to help curb wandering cats, including requirements of containment around sensitive ecosystems and vulnerable populations.