Braided River

Makarora Braided River – An Underestimated Biodiversity Hotspot

Target threatened species: wrybill, black-fronted tern, banded dotterel, black-billed gull

Makarora braided river delta adjoining Lake Wanaka

The headwaters of the Makarora River are located within the Otago Region’s Mount Aspiring National Park on the eastern flanks of the Main Divide (Southern Alps) near Haast Pass, the saddle between the Makarora and Haast River valleys. The river flows south into the northern end of Lake Wanaka, 300 m above sea level, after passing the small community of Makarora. Braiding of the river begins at Boiler Flat, approximately 304 m above sea level and flows south west joining the Blue and the Young Rivers, then extending its braid plain further meeting its confluence with the Wilkin River, continuing to the delta before reaching Lake Wanaka. The riverbed is typical of braided rivers in the South Island, containing multiple channels with islands of gravel between them, on which birds nest.

Adult black-fronted tern with juvenile fledgling (Makarora River).

The Aspiring Biodiversity Trust is currently managing a braided river bird survey and monitoring programme which commenced during September 2017.

Survey to date has shown that the Makarora braided river is an important site for indigenous braided river birds such as black-fronted tern, wrybill, black-billed gull and banded dotterel maintaining a diverse and complete braided river avifauna.

Adult wrybill in alternate plumage

Cumulative pressures faced by braided river birds such as flooding, native avian predators i.e. black-backed gull (not only introduced mammalian predators such as stoat and rat) and recreational use have also been highlighted.

For further details the 2017 Makarora braided river bird surveys are available via the link lower down.

This survey and ongoing future monitoring intend to guide and inform future conservation management to help protect, restore and safeguard Makarora braided river bird populations.
The Aspiring Biodiversity Trust are pleased to be working in collaboration with BRaid the national Braided River Aid and Conservation Network.

Black-billed gull nest with two pale-olive eggs