A Duck’s life – Whio Forever

Department of Conservation —  13/05/2019

Meet the Parents

This is Jazzy.

Jazzy is a whio (blue duck) living at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre. Jazzy has a weak spot for fellow resident, Jimmy, and his ‘blue steel’ model looks. Together, Jazzy and Jimmy are helping to increase whio numbers in the wild.

📷: Tara Swan
Jimmy’s ‘blue steel look.
📷: Tara Swan

Jazzy and Jimmy are part of the Whio Forever ‘breed for release’ programme, helping to increase populations of this endangered bird in the wild. Whio are at risk in the wild, largely due to introduced predators such as stoats. Whio Forever, a partnership between Genesis and DOC, works to protect and increase whio populations. Jazzy and Jimmy don’t know this, of course, they’re just living the duck’s life.

📷: Tara Swan

Jazzy and Jimmy succeeded in their quest to parent some new whio, although not all the eggs were viable. Pūkaha staff removed the eggs into care, encouraging the pair to breed for a second time in the season.

Ducklings ahoy

Three tiny ducklings hatched to spend their early weeks in purpose-built environments at Pūkaha, complete with a pond for swimming practice!

Ducklings are significantly cuter when outside the egg.
📷: Mireille Hicks
These tiny balls of fluff are growing up safe at Pūkaha, playing in a predator free, flood-free environment.
📷: Mireille Hicks

Whio are a ‘whitewater duck’, so in the wild they do face the risks of uncertain climate and flooding in their home rivers. That’s just part of life for whio, but our breed-for-release ducklings get a free pass to avoid that kind of trauma. Most importantly, introduced predators such as stoats are excluded.

Fluff balls playing.
📷: Mireille Hicks
The awkward teenage phase.
📷: Mireille Hicks

Moving House

Three little ducklings, off to boarding school, in…Turangi?! The whio creche in Turangi is designed to provide captive-bred whio the chance to learn skills they need to survive in the wild. They surf little rapids, walk on rocks, fly, and eat live food, all while becoming strong and healthy ready for their release.

The new digs, with volunteer Alice, proving food and cleaning.
📷: Becky O’Sullivan
Hanging out with new friends after a health check, keen to get back into the water!
📷: Becky O’Sullivan

Regular health checks keep the whio on the right track, making sure they have the best chance possible to survive when they are released into the wild. While in care, the whio have bands on their legs to help with identification. Some volunteers named the Pūkaha chicks after their bands, so we have the unlikely names of: Christmas (red & green), DOC (green & green), and Banana-mint (yellow-green).

A new forever home

Waiting with all their friends, after a long trip to Blue Duck Station.
📷: Anika Williams
I am SO ready for this water!
📷: Anika Williams
Finally home, the Pūkaha chicks were released to Blue Duck Station.
📷: Anika Williams
“Will you miss me, Alice?” Volunteer Alice about to release ‘Christmas’ into her forever home.
📷: DOC

The three Pūkaha chicks and friends were released at the end of January to a site at Blue Duck Station. They have a bright future ahead, with significant predator control in place to keep them safe from stoats. Is it weird to say ‘live long and prosper’?

If you want to see videos of the Pūkaha ducklings’ journey, visit the Whio Forever Facebook page and search for #Jazzywhanau

One response to A Duck’s life – Whio Forever

    Barry Sheard 14/05/2019 at 4:51 pm

    If you didn’t keep poisoning the environment that they live in they would probably be thriving in the wild. I saw plenty when i used to go tramping on the west coast of the south island before 1080 was being spread everywhere.