Unlike other ducks around the world who prefer to dabble around millpond-still lakes, wetlands and, well... ponds, our blue duck or whio are pure adrenalin junkies.
In fact, blue ducks have no other close relatives else in the world and they are one of only three species of duck on the planet who favour the whitewater rafting approach to life.
In order to survive in the rapids, whio have a whole raft (pun intended) of adaptations that make life in the whitewater easier to survive. They have a streamlined head, large webbed feet that fold behind the footbone when they bring their feet forward (to reduce drag), and a rubbery black lip on the edge of their bill that helps them scrape freshwater invertebrates off the rocks, without damaging their bills.
Whio have been hammered by the usual predators in New Zealand, but particularly stoats, which attack them on nesting sites above riverbanks. Whio pairs have large territories, of at least one kilometre of river. The males defend this stretch of river with their high pitched "whioooo" whistle that gives them their Maori name.
The tiny ducklings can handle rapids while they are still little balls of fluff due to their strong legs and nerves of steel. I watched them do this near Ruapehu a few years ago and I was blown away by the half a dozen ducklings, bobbing, swerving and occasionally getting swamped by the river rapids.
There are a lot of people looking out for whio these days, and they certainly need it, because despite being familiar to most of us by being found on the $10 note, only about 2000 of them remain.
One of the tricky things with whio is that you can't just scoop them up and put them on offshore islands - because, unlike other wildlife, whio need whitewater to survive. That creates a problem for protection, and it means we have to manage them here on mainland New Zealand where they live.
It seems that intensive predator control works well at keeping the whio afloat - have you ever seen a blue duck? What were they up to? Would you like to see more?
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