Whio (Blue Duck)

Hymernolaimus Malacorhynchos (Whio) 

The whio, found at Staglands Wildlife Reserve, is classified as a nationally threatened species, with current populations declining, and unless the causes for its decline are remedied, the species faces the risk of becoming extinct. 

Interesting Whio Fact! 
Whio are one of only three species amongst the world’s other 159 waterfowl that live year round on fast-flowing rivers, such as the one at Staglands. The other species are found in South America and New Guinea.

Habitat and Distribution: 
A threatened species, whio inhabit the turbulent fast flowing high-country rivers of the North Island and nests in hollow logs, small caves and other sheltered spots, like those found in our wildlife park. Recent introductions of the species have been made to some rivers of Mt Taranaki. Whio are exclusively native to New Zealand – or “endemic” and have no close relatives anywhere in the world! We are lucky to have them here in Wellington.

Whio are the only duck species likely to be seen on turbulent high-country rivers. Its upper bill has a thick fleshy ‘lip’ allowing them to scrape off insect larvae that cling to rocks. Because of their slate-gray colour, whio are very well camouflaged around river rocks. They have unique features such as a streamlined head and large webbed feet to enable them to easily manoeuvre and feed in fast moving rapids.

The Maori name for the Blue Duck is “whio”, which is a rendition of the males' call. The male makes a distinctive high-pitched “whio” whistling sound – contrasting with the low rasping growl of the female. A great family activity is to see who can make the best “whio” call!

Whio use their special bill to get at insects and grubs taken from the water’s surface or around rocks. The Caddis-fly larvae are a favourite food for whio.

Whio nest from August to December. Their nest is constructed of sticks and grasses usually hidden under rocks, in caves, under logs or in thick riverside vegetation. A clutch of 4 - 8 cream coloured eggs are incubated by the female only, for 32 days. Chicks can fly when they are 10 weeks old.


Conservation Links:

Whio Forever
Kea Conservation Trust
NZ Brown Teal Online
Department of Conservation
Greater Wellington Regional Council
IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species

One of the best places to go around Wellington, especially with kids! Lovely, very friendly and funny animals, beautiful surroundings. For the 3+ hours we spent there, we smiled and laughed as much as for the previous week? month? :-) Little historical area within the reserve is another remarkable spot.

Alexey Volkov

The staff are very welcoming. The animals were super interactive, sometimes to an amusing extent (being followed by a guinea fowl horde was hilarious). The place is huge, and I think we saw about 98% of it. A beautiful array of feathered friends, fish and furry creatures. Was definitely worth the drive. I'll pop by next time I visit NZ.

Nowhere Town

Enjoyed wandering through and petting the animals. Great for a family visit, lots of good picnic spots if you don't want to go to the cafe.

Thomas Beagle

100% recommend !!!! You get to pet a lot of animals ! I was hoping the pigs to be roaming around the grass area, but I was still able to pet them over the fence. It’s a huge reserve and got space to do picnics ! I would recommend giving yourself at least 3 hours to see everything ! They got other attractions like a train tour and apparently weddings too. You can walk along the river and feed trouts at the pond. A lot of birds just walking about so won’t recommend if you’re afraid of birds. 

Dana Young

"Easy way to fill in a fun filled day with the children. Awesome set up, reasonable price, and can take your own lunch or eat in the Cafe. Perfect!"

Emma McGregor

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