The whio or blue duck, which features on our $10 note, is endemic to New Zealand. Rarer than some species of kiwi, with an estimated population of under 3000, it is nationally vulnerable and faces the risk of becoming extinct.
Their Maori name is whio whio, and they are found nowhere else in the world. A river specialist, they inhabit clean, fast flowing streams in the forested upper catchments of our rivers.
Nesting along the riverbanks, they are at high risk of attack from stoats and rats.
Staglands Wildlife Reserve have had whio for many years and are one on New Zealand’s most successful breeders of this iconic bird. Their current pairs’ aviary is undergoing major renovations. The plan is that it will become a much larger, walk-through aviary that will house not only the whio but also kakariki and possibly kaka, with the ultimate goal being to offer visitors an even better experience.
In 1976, Staglands was a world leader in developing the first walk-through aviary for their kea, well ahead of what was considered the norm at the time. For owner, John Simisters the motivation was simple, ‘to offer both visitors and the kea a richer interaction’
Today, 40 years on, walk-through aviaries are recognised as best practice by the industry. Given this track record visitors should be in for a treat, once renovations are completed, later this year.