NZ Conservation Week: Sulphur Bay Wildlife Refuge Rotorua

June 27, 2016

Since it’s Conservation Week from 1 – 8 November, we thought we’d let you know a bit more about the unique hot spot on our shores – Sulphur Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Since it’s Conservation Week from 1 – 8 November, we thought we’d let you know a bit more about the unique hot spot on our shores – Sulphur Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Hopefully next time you relax and soak in our lakeside spas with this view, you’ll be able to see a few cool things.

First of all, you’re probably wondering why the water in the bay appears to be a much lighter milky colour compared to the rest of Lake Rotorua – this is because of sulphur suspensions in the acidic water (pH 3.5). The Bay also has plenty of geothermal features including boiling mudpools, naturally hot water and steam.

As for why rare birds choose to enjoy this spot – it’s because they have fast metabolic rates and need a lot of energy to fuel flight – the geothermal warmth of Sulphur Bay, helps the birds to conserve energy usually used to keep bodies warm. You can spot nationally threatened birds including the New Zealand dabchick, banded dotterel and black-billed gull.

The New Zealand dabchick is a specialised freshwater diving bird, which is Nationally Vulnerable with an estimated 1700 left. The dabchick dives for food reaching depths of around 4 metres and holding their breath for around 40 seconds – they often surface about 100m away from where they dived. The dabchicks live on the water most of their lives and only fly from one body of water to another at night, so it is rare to see them fly or on land. Dabchicks are extinct from the South Island but can be found around the Central North Island in Taupo and here in Rotorua.

The gulls of Sulphur Bay are also unique as they are not usually found in geothermal environments. These species are typically found along braided rivers, mostly in the South Island. Just 5% of the total black-billed gull population is found in the North Island of New Zealand and the species is currently classified as being Nationally Critical.

The red-billed gull is the most common gull on the New Zealand coast. Except for the colony around Sulphur Bay, it is rarely found inland. In parts of New Zealand red-billed gull populations have declined by as much as 51% resulting in the species currently being classified as Nationally Vulnerable.

If you live in the Rotorua District and are looking to support threatened Sulphur Bay bird populations get in touch, and find out how you can help as a volunteer here.