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Wildlife of New Zealand

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Whio (Blue Duck) with chicks (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos, Anatidae: Ducks etc.) central North Island, New Zealand.

The Whio or Blue Duck is a unique New Zealand endemic duck which inhabits forested, fast-flowing mountain streams in central North Island and the Southern Alps of the South Island. The birds here were filmed in a stream that runs off Mt Ruapehu, the huge active volcano that dominates the centre of the North Island. They are hard birds to see, not only are they uncommon, about 3000 remain across the country, the streams they live on have dense foliage right to the edge and there are limited public paths esp. those that give a clear view of potential habitat. I was very lucky here, not only did we get a good view of a pair of birds, we also see their five chicks. Watch as they gamely deal with the fast currents. Standing still just out of clear view allowed the birds to approach me within a few metres, there being no clicks or flashes. They are most active at dusk and dawn and these birds were filmed in overcast conditions late in the evening.

The bird has a unique membrane at the tip of its bill which assists it in getting food from the underside of rocks and boulders in the rapidly flowing waters.

The officially used Maori name 'Whio' (pronounced 'Fee-oh') refers to the Whistle like call made by the male, which can be heard on the film from about 2:58. 'Blue duck' obviously refers to the colour of the bird, which allows it to blend with the blue-grey boulders so common in its habitat, making them hard to spot if they are still, even when close

This bird is very susceptible to predation from introduced mammals, especially stoats. In areas of known Whio populations, NZ authorities spend a fortune in time and effort with intensive baiting and trapping for stoats see doc.govt.nz/whio

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