The Whio, also known as the Blue Duck, is a unique and distinct species of duck found in New Zealand. It is a medium-sized duck with a stocky build, short neck, and short bill. Adults have a bluish-grey plumage, giving them their name, while juveniles have a more mottled appearance. They have dark eyes, strong legs, and partially webbed feet adapted for navigating fast-flowing rivers.
Whio/Blue Ducks are endemic to New Zealand and are primarily found in fast-flowing rivers and streams within forested and alpine regions. They are known to inhabit remote and pristine areas with clear water, boulders, and rocky habitats. They are particularly associated with clean, oxygen-rich waterways.
Whio/Blue Ducks are omnivorous, feeding on various aquatic invertebrates, such as insects, larvae, and freshwater crustaceans. They also consume small fish and occasionally feed on plant matter, including algae and aquatic vegetation. They are adept divers and can stay submerged for extended periods while foraging underwater.
Whio/Blue Ducks form monogamous pairs during the breeding season. They build their nests in rock crevices, under overhanging banks, or within natural cavities near waterways. The female lays a clutch of 6-8 eggs, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs. After hatching, the chicks are led to nearby water by the female, where they learn to swim and feed.
The Whio/Blue Duck is considered a threatened species in New Zealand. It is classified as "Nationally Vulnerable" by the New Zealand Threat Classification System. The primary threats to their population include habitat loss and degradation due to hydroelectric dams, pollution, invasive predators (such as stoats and rats), and competition with introduced species. Conservation efforts focus on predator control, habitat restoration, and captive breeding programs to safeguard their future.
Whio/Blue Ducks do not have specific tree or plant preferences. Their habitat primarily revolves around fast-flowing rivers and streams rather than particular tree species.