Their roundabout, their castle

Plovers have taken up residence on Oropi Rd roundabout. Photo: Chris Callinan.

They chose a strategic bit of real estate. Sweeping 360 degree views, bush perspectives and easy access from all points of the city.

The downside is noise – umpteen hundred cars, trucks and buses rumbling through each day. And the incessant sound of horns, tortured tyres and occasional stressed metal.

The Poike Rd roundabout on State Highway 29A – that’s where a couple of spur-winged plover set up home to raise their chicks.

“In terms of a safe nesting site, that’s an insane spot,” says Western Bay Wildlife Trust’s Paul Cuming. “You would think they had a bit of nous where they nested. They scoped that spot and decided there weren’t many humans.”

And he expects the plovers will learn the folly of their ways when the chicks come along and wander from the nest.  

But why a roundabout? “Why would they come to New Zealand in the first place would be a wider arching question.” says Paul. Even as a bird enthusiast he is not enamoured. “Not many people are.”

A fascinating-looking bird with its black crown or hood and yellow mask. But appearances can be deceiving. They are also variously described as noisy, boisterous, bad-mannered and vicious. And Australian. They have bad rep. “A bit like the magpie,” says Paul. And about that screeching cry, a colleague likens the call to steel talons clawing at glass. It’s a loud staccato rattle like ‘kerr-kik-ki-ki-ki’.

And is it ‘tom-eh-toe’ or ‘tom-are-toe’, and is it ‘ploh-ver’ or ‘pluvver’? Pronounced ‘pluvver’ apparently.

Apparently they do like mown grassy areas for nesting. They simply scoop out a small patch and line it with paper, leaves and scraps, anything handy.

Two spur-winged plover arrived in Invercargill in 1932 and now there are swathes of them throughout the country. They are classified native but one of the few native birds, along with the black backed gull, that are no longer protected.

“They do know a predator when they see one,” says Paul. And that is their advantage. “New Zealand birds don’t know a thing about predators and so they don’t recognise them.” To their own cost.

And these Ozzie interlopers are a threat to our very own endangered NZ dotterels. “There are only a couple of thousand dotterels so having a plover walk up and eat your eggs isn’t so good,” says Paul.

But he is diplomatic. He says the plover has a “mixed reputation”. “But no, I am not a fan.” And their choice of nesting sites is “senseless”.

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