Recovery project hatches plans

22:03, Apr 23 2012
Peter Russell
LEAVING THE NEST: A blue duck, held by Esplanade aviary keeper Peter Russell, is heading to the wild thanks to a recovery and release programme for the endangered species.

Nine blue ducks hand-reared at the Esplanade in Palmerston North are about to be released into the wild where their eggs were found.

The ducks' journey has come full circle thanks to the efforts of the Blue Duck Recovery Project and the care of Esplanade aviary keeper Peter Russell.

The blue duck, or whio, eggs were rescued by recovery project members after they were found in a nest in danger of being swept away by a swollen river.

The eggs were placed in Mr Russell's care to hatch.

They hatched at the end of December. After a few weeks, the ducks were sent to Peacock Springs Wildlife Park in Christchurch to get used to fast-running water.

The birds spent last night at the Esplanade before being sent to their North Island homelands today.


The pitstop meant Mr Russell could reacquaint himself with his feathered friends.

"They have come full circle and it's great to see the end of the story," he said.

Mr Russell said the birds needed to get to grips with the conditions they would face in the wild.

"Otherwise, it would get one heck of a shock to the system as these rivers are pretty fast moving," Mr Russell said.

Finding rivers that had blue duck living nearby was a sign of good water quality as they were a fussy species and would move out at the first sign of pollution, he said.

Horizons Regional Council monitors blue duck numbers in the region.

Environmental co-ordinator Aaron Madden said there were several spots where the ducks could be found.

"They are at the top of the Oroua catchment and also on the Retaruke and the Manganui o te Ao River," he said.

Mr Russell said having endangered species at the Esplanade aviary provided a good opportunity for the public to get close to birds they would not normally see.

The Esplanade has one pair of whio.

Mr Russell hoped the pair would produce some offspring this year after a false start last season when they produced infertile eggs.

Manawatu Standard