Despite sharing the $10 note with the illustrious Kate Sheppard, few people recognise this unique duck as one of our own. Endemic to New Zealand, the whio is one of only four duck species in the world that live in fast-flowing water. With numbers stagnating at a worrisome 2500, March gave them some sorely-needed time in the limelight as Whio Awareness Month.
Thanks to the Whio Forever Project, New Zealanders got four whole weeks to get to know this unique bird better:
Name: Whio. Named after the male’s call (whio means ‘whistle’ in Maori)
Lifespan: 7 – 8 years
Hometown: turbulent white-water rivers and high-country waterways
Marital status: monogamous. Well, for a year at least. Some breeding pairs will stay together for a lifetime however (awww)
Appearance: blue/grey to camouflage with the rocks (all the better for stealth attacks on invaders)
Favourite meal: aquatic insect larvae found on rocks in the river
Loves: Fisticuffs and patrolling the borders. Whio will aggressively defend their stretch of river, which can be up to a kilometre long. This is why they don’t get on well with other species of ducks.
Sworn enemies: Aside from all other ducks, mostly stoats, rats and cats (who eat their eggs and are a primary cause of the declining population!)
Would you back the whio?
Forest & Bird’s outrageously popular Bird of the Year competition kicks off later this year. And not once – in the twelve years of the competition’s existence – has this guy won. We reckon they’ve got a fighting chance!
So, now that you know this unique duck a little better, perhaps you’ll step up as the whio’s campaign manager?