Annual census of wetland birds on Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere

  • Denise Ford


Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere is large shallow coastal lake situated at the bottom of the Selwyn Catchment in Canterbury. The lake is separated from the sea by Kaitorete Spit which is periodically mechanically opened for fish migration and managing land inundation. In 1981 the International Union for Conservation of Nature recognised the lake as being of international importance for its abundance and diversity of birdlife. Even though the lake and environs are highly modified there is a diverse range of wetland bird species present including those with conservation concerns such as the banded dotterel and Australasian bittern. In 1990 a National Water Conservation Order was gazetted for the lake to recognize its outstanding values. In 2011 the order was updated to include habitat for wildlife, indigenous wetland vegetation and fish; and as being of significance in accordance with tikanga Maori in respect of Ngai Tahu history, mahinga kai and customary fisheries. However, the health of the lake and the tributaries that feed into it have declined over the decades mainly through land use change.

Author Biography

Denise Ford
,Waihora Ellesmere Trust
Field Notes and Case Studies