Jobs at DOC: Whiona — Mother duck

Department of Conservation —  05/04/2013

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Although we’re a week past Whio Awareness Month, we couldn’t not feature our whabulous Mother Duck, Whiona, based in Te Urewera…

Left: In my nesting bowl. Right: Close up of my yellow eyes.

Left: In my cosy nesting bowl lined with down and feathers. Right: They say the eyes are the windows to our souls.

Some things I do in my job include…

Feeding, feeding, feeding, early morning and late evening, I’m trying to get my body weight up so that I can start making some eggs.

That Whabio, he keeps whistling at me, ‘Whio, whio’ n biting my tail. I growl, ‘Rrrrrrrrrr’, but he is persistent. I’m glad it’s quick, nearly drowns me, lucky ducky!

I’ve also got to start looking for dry sheltered areas, creating a nesting bowl, lining it with down, and feathering my nest. Once that’s finished; I’ll lay seven creamy white eggs and sit there for 30 days on the river’s edge. Got to keep an ever watchful eye on things – like Sauron, in the Lord of the Rings!

The best bit about my job is…

Having a gander at all those ducklings of ours starting to fly—brings a tear to my eye every time.

Whabio keeps wrestling with the boys and dunking them under, silly goose… they fly off but always come back. They look so daffy, one still has down on his head like a punk rocker but they’re only adolescent.

Me and the girls just sit and watch, chirping at their antics.

Soon though they will raft up and flock with all the other ducklings on the river. They’ll be off on a big adventure, fledging! Boys will be boys and they’ll test their wings to the greatest distances—sometimes up to 80 km away. While some will just follow a nearby trickle, walking till they reach the headwater.

Wish them well and hope they find a Security or Recovery Site where they will be safe, otherwise 60% of them will sadly die. Really gets my feathers ruffled!

Waiiti blue duck ducklings.

Whabio and I keep an eye on all our little ducklings

The scariest thing I’ve had happen was…

Having a stoat attack me the on the nest the other night. I felt like a sitting duck, so I growled to Whabio and he flew in to my rescue. We were biting and smacking him with our wing spurs but he just kept on coming back. We battled him for close to an hour, but he kept sneaking in under the nesting material like a snake trying to steal my eggs, even trying to bite the back of my neck. Finally we drove him off—whew! Had to go to the quack to have my injuries looked at, ooh gives me goose bumps thinking about it.

Things that make me laugh are…

  • Seeing that stoat from the other night with his eyes all bugged out of its head, caught in that DOC 200. Haha, his goose was cooked.
  • Daffy duck, “Suffering succotash”, he’s hilarious.
  • That time I waddled into this bar, hopped up on the stool and said, “Whio whio” and asked the barman, “Could I have a fluffy duck?” and he said, “No we don’t serve ducks, now get outta here”. Five minutes later I waddled back into the bar hopped up on the stool and said, “Whio whio” and asked the barman, “Could I have a fluffy duck” and he angrily said, “Look, I already told you, we don’t serve ducks. Now if you come back in here again I’m going to nail your webbed foot to the floor. Now get outta here”. Five minutes later I waddled back into the bar hopped up on the stool and said, “Whio whio” and asked the barman, “Do you have any nails?” The barman screamed, “NO”. I then said, “Whio whio. Could I have a fluffy duck?” Bottoms up! Persistence pays off!

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…

Girl holding whio.

We get to interact with some pretty cool kids around the country especially at release time

It’s very hard to pick just one DOC person because they are all so dedicated! They take to hard work like a duck to water, both male and female! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that…

When I moult I like to hide away up in the small side streams, but feel like a duck out of water! Literally!

The song that always cheers me up is…

“I’m a little blue duck”. It really quacks me up!

My stomping ground is…

The fast flowing water ways of Te Urewera—from the mountain to the sea. I go right up into the smallest of trickles, 800m up, and even into the bush to collect berries and nest. The Auckland Zoo Whio enclosure is also a whiovourite place to stay. It can be found on the Whio Forever website too! Check it out—too cool!

My greatest sporting moment was…

Watching Whabio win his 11th world championship surfing title! Whio-bulous! A whioesta was had that night!

The best piece of news I’ve heard lately is…

That Genesis Energy has sponsored the Whio Recovery Programme and DOC has put out thousands of traps around the rivers to protect us from them nasty stoats. They sure have all their ducks in a row!

In my spare time I…

Like to play on standing waves and run some rapids, be as loose as a goose n’ just go quackers!

My secret indulgence is…

Hinau berries and the odd coprosma dipped in olive oil and dukka.

If I wasn’t working at being a duck, I’d like to…

Be a super ninja duck and lead stoats on a wild goose chase n’ kick some stoat ass…Waaaaah yaa!

I’d love to be a super ninja whio kicking some stoat ass!

I’d love to be a super ninja whio kicking some stoat ass!

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quotes…

“If it walks like a whio, whistles like a whio, looks like a whio, it must be a whio!”

Whio beak.

I think my lips are big enough for a smooch from my celebrity crush, Mick Jagger

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is…

Be like a duck: keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underwater.

In work and life I am motivated by…

All the hard work and effort by the practitioners, sponsors, individuals and supporters to increase awareness of my plight and protect other whiolks from stoats around the country. Sooo, in turn, I will do my part and produce lots of ducklings in recognition of your contributions to help.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is…

By protecting us whio you are protecting an ambassador and icon of New Zealand’s rivers and streams. We represent the completeness and quality of our waterways and what it intrinsically means to be a New Zealander. Just ducky!

Question of the week

Who is your celebrity crush?

It would have to be Mick Jagger—got to love those lips, that duck strut, attitude and moves like Jagger! And still rockin’.

One response to Jobs at DOC: Whiona — Mother duck

  1. 

    So enjoyed this article, thank you! Have a renewed love of Whio as a result! Big thanks to all the DOC team involved in protection of this beautiful bird – you all rock!! Good luck to you all during the review process. Best wishes Jo-Anne