From mid-winter onwards pairs begin to move to their nesting territories, which are fiercely defended against other pairs, with nesting beginning in September and carrying through to the end of February (2) (3). Up to three well-camouflaged eggs are laid in a scrape in the sand (3), which are then incubated by both the male and female for around 30 days (2). The parents will commonly try to distract potential predators away from the nest by pretending to be injured, but if the eggs are lost, the birds will re-nest, two or three times if necessary (2) (3). Chicks are quite active soon after hatching and can fly at six to seven weeks (3). Young proceed to stay close to their natal site for the first 12 to 18 months of their lives, but subsequently disperse quite widely, and begin breeding at two years (2) (3). The oldest recorded bird lived to 31 years of age (4).
In late February, the birds leave their breeding sites to congregate in flocks at estuaries for the autumn and early winter (2) (3). These flocks, which can number up to 150 birds, allow birds that have lost partners during the breeding season to find new ones and young birds to pair for the first time (3).
The New Zealand dotterel feeds on terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, although small fish, crabs and sandhoppers are also sometimes taken (6).