New home for rare duckling

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:30 13/12/2012
duck
ROBERT KITCHIN/FairfaxNZ

This week-old whio duckling was rescued from Mount Taranaki and sent to a temporary new home in Palmerston North.

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A week-old whio duckling has found a new home in Palmerston North after being rescued from a Taranaki river.

The lone whio, or blue duck, was spotted alone on the Waiwhakaiho River by Department of Conservation ranger Emily King on Tuesday.

She was surveying the area looking for duck signs when the duckling paddled across the water in front of her.

"This little guy or girl went skating across the river," Miss King said. "My gut instinct was that it was on its own."

The duck had swum over to a bank on the far side of the river and had poked its head between two rocks when Miss King reached it.

"I grabbed it and put it in my hat, it was the only thing I had to carry it in. My first thought was to try and reunite it with its family."

Miss King scoured the riverbanks for several hundred metres for the duckling's family but was unable to locate it.

Because of the whio's rarity Miss King said she decided to intervene and remove the bird from the area.

Yesterday she brought it down to the aviary at Palmerston North's Victoria Esplanade where it will be cared for by aviary keeper Peter Russell.

Mr Russell - a member of the Blue Duck Recovery Group - said that he would look after the bird for several weeks before it would be transferred to Peacock Springs in Christchurch.

Once the bird had reached adulthood it would be released back onto Mt Taranaki. The bird was too young for its sex to be determined but both Miss King and Mr Russell said they hoped it was a female.

"The population is two-thirds male," Miss King said. "That's a critical limiting factor for the growth of the population. Fingers crossed it's a girl."

DOC classes the whio as vulnerable.

The bird lives in fast-flowing forest rivers. The species is believed to have appeared at an early stage in evolutionary history and has no close relative anywhere in the world.

Along with DOC efforts to grow the whio population by controlling pests in their habitat and monitoring birds in the wild, whio are also bred at Mt Bruce for release into the wild. The Esplanade also has a pair that are yet to breed successfully.

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- Manawatu Standard

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