The Department of Conservation is celebrating this year’s bumper whio/blue duck breeding season in eastern parts of Kahurangi National Park with a public whio day event.
The event will be held at Tapawera Area School from 2 pm on Thursday 5 March. It will focus on information about whio and displays of welcome posters created by students at the school.
DOC Motueka Senior Ranger Kate Steffens said this is the most successful breeding season yet in the 11 years of the Wangapeka-Fyfe Whio Security Site in Kahurangi National Park.
“Sixteen pairs have produced 36 fledglings between them. The average of 2.2 fledglings per monitored pair is the site’s highest breeding rate to date."
A further nine fledglings have been hatched and raised at the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust in Christchurch as part of the WHIONE (whio nest egg) programme, and will be released into the park on 5 March. They will stop in very briefly at the event on the way to their new home.
Kate said whio in other eastern areas of the park also appeared to have had a productive breeding season.
“Sightings of whio families have been coming in from all over the park. Whio ducklings have been seen at the confluence of the Karamea and Crow rivers for the first time in years.”
The whio security site, centred on the Wangapeka and Fyfe river catchments, is one of eight nationally, ensuring the survival of whio in the wild through DOC’s partnership with Genesis Energy in the Whio Forever Project. The site is managed with the goal of establishing 50 pairs there, with at least 30 pairs currently.
Kate said low rainfall had contributed to the good whio breeding as whio nests were commonly destroyed by flooded waterways from heavy rainfall.
Aerial 1080 pest control in the Wangapeka Fyfe Whio Security Site and other parts of Kahurangi National Park last year is also helping to protect whio from stoats which are the biggest predator threat to the native ducks. The site also has stoat trapping along 73 km of the waterway.
Genesis Energy and DOC have partnered together in a five year programme to secure the future of this unique vulnerable native bird. Operating under the name of Whio Forever this partnership is fast tracking implementation of the national Whio Recovery Plan to protect whio and increase public awareness.
The support of Genesis Energy is enabling DOC to double the number of fully secure whio breeding sites throughout the country, boost pest control efforts and enhance productivity and survival for these rare native ducks.