Ducks Unlimited
Monday, 22 July 2019 01:16

Whio Forever

Whio Forever wins green ribbon award

The Whio Forever recovery programme won the Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Award this year for protecting our biodiversity. 

The Awards recognise outstanding contributions of individuals, organisations, 
businesses and communities to protecting and enhancing New Zealand’s environment.

The National Whio Recovery Programme is a partnership between Genesis Energy, the Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird and the Central North Island Blue Duck Charitable Trust. It is focused on the protection and recovery of the whio, a threatened native bird and supports whio security and recovery 
sites across the country.

Genesis Energy Environmental Manager, Bonny Lawrence and the Department of Conservation Whio Recovery Group Leader, Andrew Glaser accepted the award from the department’s Director General, Lou Sanson. 
Genesis Energy’s Chief Executive, Albert Brantley said the credit for winning the award has to go to the large community of people nationwide who are dedicated to the protection of whio.
“This award recognises the efforts of all of the people who are involved in protecting the whio and raising the profile of this iconic bird. That Genesis Energy is able to fund and support this work is something we are very proud off,” said Albert.
Sponsorship from Genesis Energy will enable the 10-year recovery plan to be delivered ahead of schedule. The target number of whio pairs to be protected at recovery sites has doubled to 200 pairs. Based on results to date it is estimated that by 2016, the target of 400 protected whio pairs will be reached at the
eight security sites Receiving the award DOC’s Whio Recovery Group Leader Andrew Glaser said it was exciting the Whio Forever partnership was 
acknowledged, as the Awards recognised a wide range of amazing environmental initiatives around New Zealand.
“It was inspirational to hear about the incredible work happening across the country, and to talk to people who have the same passion and drive to make changes to our natural environment.
“The whio is an icon of our waterways, where there are whio there are healthy, clean waterways so this programme is incredibly important,” he said.

Andy also acknowledged the many whio practitioners and community supporters
who have contributed to the success of the programme.

The whio recovery programme also funds WHIONE projects (Whio Operation Nest Egg) that allows wild whio populations to be boosted with ducklings hatched and raised in safe havens, then released into the wild.


Published in Issue 161
A state of the art walk through aviary is one step closer for Pukaha after receiving a grant of $250,000 from Trust House Foundation.

This grant has kick started fundraising for the $1.1 million project designed to provide visitors to Pukaha with an exciting experience – allowing them to get closer to native bird life and flora and fauna. 

Construction of the project is due to commence in May 2015 with completion expected in November 2015.

This is a substantial grant from Trust House Foundation who have long been a key supporter of Pukaha Mount Bruce.

This walk through aviary will give visitors an amazing experience, providing a greater understanding of New Zealand’s precious flora and fauna and how we, as individuals and collectively can play our part in its protection.

The proposed aviary has been designed by the Pukaha Mount Bruce Board in collaboration with Fabric Structures Ltd, who built The Cloud in Auckland Viaduct; Boffa Miskall Landscape Architects and Rigg Zschokke Ltd. 
Pukaha also received assistance from Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, Australia and the Department of Conservation. To be built on site near the current blue duck aviaries, it will be 40 metres long by 20 metres wide and is expected to house at least eight different species of native birds.

Spring arrival at Pukaha

A nice surprise for spring - three Whio eggs were laid. Staff will carefully look after them in the brooder room and hope for another clutch soon.

Staff  are also keeping a close eye on five male kiwi who are sitting on eggs in the forest and hoped to bring in the first kiwi chick of the season. While they had intended to bring it in as an egg and hatch it in their nursery, the burrow was too deep for the egg to be safely taken out without damaging the burrow.

Keep right up-to-date with all new hatchings and events on the facebook page -


Published in Issue 161
Monday, 22 July 2019 00:26

Pateke success at Tawharanui

Pateke success at Tawharanui

Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary reintroduced pateke between 2008 and 2010, with 148 captive reared ducklings released in total. An earlier release in the 90s failed due to inadequate predator control, an unfortunately common occurrence for pre 2000 pateke releases.
More recent releases within the predator free open sanctuary have successfully established a population of approximately 30 pair, with pateke and ducklings regularly seen throughout the park. Tāwharanui pateke have also dispersed from the park and have established as two new satellite populations at nearby Christian Bay and Omaha, as well as supplementing remnant population on Kawau Island.

Matt Maitland
Senior Ranger Open Sanctuaries
Northern Regional Parks


Published in Issue 161
Monday, 22 July 2019 00:13

To save Pateke

To save Pateke Knowledge, care and endurance

Positive aspects of the recovery programme

The release of captive reared Pateke by Ducks Unlimited (NZ) in the Northland area between 1980-1992 had a number of positive outcomes, particularly at the 350-hectare government owned Mimiwhangata Farm Park during a brief period when predator control was being carried out. 
Pre-release aviaries were used and supplementary feeding took place.
3½ half months after the release of 64 captive reared Pateke at the Mimiwhangata, Farm Park in 1986 all 64 Pateke were believed to be still alive (Hayes 2002).

1. Flock mating/natural pairing of Pateke was the key to the highly successful captive breeding programme – together with the enthusiasm of participants. Flock mating is now being used in a number of rare waterfowl recovery programmes.

2. Captive reared brown teal adapt readily to a wild environment, natural or created.

3. In Northland captive reared Pateke released at Mimiwhangata, Whananaki and Purerua between 1986-1992 survived for long periods and produced offspring – in spite of little predator control, with predator control Pateke are doing well.

4. Where predator control programmes have been in operation at suitably selected quality release sites in Northland (and more recently on the Coromandel) Pateke have survived very well and have successfully reared many progeny.

5. In the absence of waterfowl hunting and predators, captive reared brown teal released into quality Pateke habitat have few problems adapting to the wild.

6. A gradual transition from captive bred to wild, using pre-release pens and a supplementary diet was successful.

7. Brown teal are by far the most predator vulnerable species amongst all species of waterfowl

8. Captive reared teal released on off-shore islands that have suitable predator-free habitat survive and breed well.

9. When the release of captive reared Pateke into quality habitat is coupledwith predator control, a pre-release aviary, supplementary feeding and with the site having an adequate area for a significant population increase (such as at: Mimiwhangata, Purerua and Port Charles), the recovery process is a very simple one!

10. Between 1969-1992 it was learnt that releasing captive reared Pateke at a large number of unsuitable and disconnected habitats, with 35 different sites being used, achieved little, was counterproductive and very expensive.

11. Since the 2000 Audit of the recovery programme steady progress has been made towards increasing the wild populations of Pateke.

Starting in 2009 a150 captive reared Pateke have been released in Fiordland, but it is too early to predict the outcome of this programme. 
Pateke were once widespread throughout Fiordland, the habitat is still excellent and with ongoing predator control a South Island population could be re-established.

The 2000 audit of the pateke recovery programme

As already discussed, in late 1999 the Department of Conservation carried out a major audit of the Pateke Recovery Programme, into which 39 people with Pateke experience had input. The outcomes were published in 2000.
Since the Audit set down clearly defined recommendations and objectives of what needed to be done to save Pateke from extinction there has been a remarkable turnaround - from a total population of 800 in 1999 to a population of 2000 by 2012, with 350 in Northland, 550 on Great Barrier Island, 650 on Coromandel Peninsula, 200 on off-shore island.

Recovery mode

The population chart shows there has been significant improvement in Pateke numbers since the 2000 Audit; this has been achieved in three historic Pateke areas of the North Island mainland; at the Mimiwhangata Farm Park, Whananaki, Tutukaka, Ngunguru, and Purerua Peninsula all in the Northland region of New Zealand, on the Coromandel Peninsula and on Great Barrier Island - all areas where Pateke were extant in 1999. The key to the recovery has been the introduction of major predator
control programmes using a variety of trapping techniques, in association with Pateke habitat creation, habitat enhancement, protection and management, no duck hunting, and in Northland and Coromandel Peninsula the release of significant numbers of captive reared Pateke.
By 2012 the Pateke population in Northland had risen from 350 in 2000 to 550. The most spectacular re-establishment has taken place on the Coromandel Peninsula, where from 20 Pateke in 2000 the population had risen to 650 by 2012.

The recovery on the Coromandel clearly endorses the philosophy that provided Pateke have suitable habitat, protection from predators and ongoing management support they will survive and breed very  successfully, with the success on the Coromandel possibly being the most rapid recovery of an endangered duck.
Since the 2000 Audit there has been major predator control.

Negative aspects of Recovery programme

Between 1975 and 2002 there were 2000 Pateke released into mainland wetland sites, with all releases failing to slow the species decline, largely due to:

• Lack of continuity amongst Pateke management personnel and others directly involved in planning the survival of Pateke. 

• Sites used were poorly selected.

• No pre-release study to see if there was an adequate food source.

• No pre-release study to determine whether the habitat was suitable.

• Little predator control and little knowledge of the subject.

• Little understanding about the main predators to control/ eliminate.

• Until early 2000 no sites had ongoing predator control.

• Many sites were out on a limb, with no wild Pateke in the area. • Many sites had no adjacent wetlands for progeny expansion or to which adults could escape.

• Many sites had no loafing facilities or aerial protection.

• Insufficient supplementary feeding of released birds. The value of this is recorded in a paper published in 2013.

• Pre-release aviaries rarely used.

• Competing waterfowl were present.

• Hybridisation with mallards and grey teal occurred. 

• Instant dispersal of released birds occurred.

• A lack of ongoing support.

• A lack of monitoring of released birds.

Published in Issue 161
Thursday, 04 April 2019 09:41

Happy Birthday Manukura

Three years ago staff at Pukaha Mount Bruce had a huge surprise when a kiwi egg hatched and out came a pure white kiwi!

Manukura is a very special white kiwi, and she turned 3 on May 3 this year.

A month of celebration activities was arranged. As well as a daily Manukura ‘fact hunt’ through the reserve there were a number of activities every weekend during that month.

Thanks to the Ten O Clock Cookie Bakery & Cafe in Masterton, there was a huge birthday cake in the kiwi house with a slice for every visitor. 

Footnote: I called in to Pukaha Mount Bruce for a sneaky look at Manukura as she slowly walked around her enclosure in the kiwi house. Carefully she inserted her beak deep into the ground searching for worms and other tasty morsels. She is a big girl now and well worth a visit.

PS. The café at Pukaha has undergone a change and is now called Wild Café - new management but same staff –same delicious coffee and food.

Liz Brook

Manukura – a kiwi that flies

Wairarapa residents travelling around New Zealand and/or the world are being encouraged to take a Manukura soft toy with them. The idea is to take photos and send them back to the local newspaper. Of course you need to purchase a Manukura soft toy. 

Check with Helen at Pukaha Mount Bruce [This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.] and she will arrange to send you one.

If you are keen and have a Manukura toy with you, send your photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  The best photo will win a $1000 prize courtesy of a Masterton travel agency.

Published in Issue 160
Tuesday, 02 April 2019 08:16

Bittern count reassessed

New research highlights the importance of New Zealand’s wetlands for one of our most secretive native birds, the Australasian bittern or matuku, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said on World Wetlands Day, 2 February.

GPS tracking of matuku/bittern has, for the first time, revealed that it flies more than 300km between wetlands in the eastern South Island as well as large distances between North Island wetland sites. 

Previously it was thought bittern ranged only small distances from their home wetlands.

DU is one of several partners in the Department of Conservation-led research, which shows that bittern rely on a network of wetlands to feed and breed in. 

It also means matuku/bittern may be rarer than previously thought as birds have probably been double-counted in local counts in different parts of the country.

In the study, male bittern were tracked flying 330km from Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere in Canterbury to wetlands near Blenheim during the breeding season last spring. 

They also flew 117km from Whangamarino wetland in north Waikato to south Kaipara and from Whangamarino to Kaituna in the Bay of Plenty.

Published in Issue 176
Sunday, 31 March 2019 08:50

A long way from home

DU member Diana Chetwin was surprised to spot a rare visitor from the south and now her sighting has been officially confirmed.

On December 2017 I was helping to launch a boat at Sandy Bay, Te Awaiti, South Wairarapa, when I heard the sound of pied stilts; looking down the beach, I saw two birds take flight. One appeared to be darker than the other.

After launching the boat, I walked along to the next bay to see if the birds had landed there. Sure enough, they were fossicking in the rock pools as it was low tide. One was a black and white stilt and the other was clearly a black stilt (kakī). 

I had my little camera and was able to get close enough to get a few pictures, but not so close as to disturb them again. The black stilt was banded, but unfortunately it was standing behind a low rock ledge so the feet and coloured leg bands could not be seen properly. 

The sighting was reported to the Department of Conservation and the breeding programme at Twizel in Canterbury. Conversations with people there revealed that the black and white stilt was a hybrid from breeding with a black stilt and the other was clearly a black stilt in the North Island. 

My photos only showed the bands on one leg, so they were unable to provide any more information on its breeding, but it was definitely from the South Island. 

Climate conditions before the sighting were exceptionally dry for the month but there had been rain the week before. No storms though. 

The sighting was reported to the Ornithological Society of New Zealand as an unusual bird recording and officially recorded

Published in Issue 176
Sunday, 31 March 2019 08:43

Pukaha releases shore plovers

Four juvenile shore plovers (tuturuatu) were released on to Motutapu island in early February. 
The birds, which are critically endangered and number about 250 in the world, are endemic to New Zealand and among the world’s rarest shore birds. 
Pūkaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre in the northern Wairarapa, which released the birds, hopes to release 21 more by the end of March. 
“This season has been very full on,” says Mireille Hicks, lead shore plover ranger at Pūkaha. “Together with the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust, 
this would be our most successful year yet. Between us we have so far raised 46 shore plover chicks – and there are more on the way. 
“We have seven breeding pairs in total, two of which are breeding in their first season, which is incredible. We also have a breeding pair that was very unexpected as the male had an injured wing and the female had an issue with her feathers. 
“Due to these injuries they could not be released into the wild but by breeding in captivity, they are contributing to the survival of their species.”
Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf is the site of the world’s largest pest eradication programme and is home to the saddleback (tīeke).
“The shore plover is a very special bird because it’s naturally very curious, but it nests on the ground and is very small – it almost ‘shakes hands’ with predators,” Mireille says. 
“They are also very nervous birds and can be easily frightened away from their nests. Many people do not know about how critical the situation is which is something we’d like to change. Each bird is precious.”
Last year, Pūkaha released six juveniles hatched from five pairs on to Waikawa Island. The Shore Plover Recovery Programme began at Pūkaha in the early 1980s. 


Published in Issue 176
Sunday, 20 January 2019 06:05

Positive Whio captive results

Breeding Results 2013-2014


What a great year we have had with 33 ducklings reared and released over the last two weeks in March. This is a new record. Peacocks, two pairs lead the charge with having three clutch’s each and producing 23 and then Mt Bruce’s pair produced six from two clutch’s and Orana pair had four. 

Queenstown pair did have one but it died at seven-weeks-old which was a shame. The pair from Auckland had infertile eggs but the female had been flocked mated not long before at Mt Bruce after losing her mate. The pair at Hamilton did nothing as well as the pair at Staglands. The pair at Palmerston North Esplanade did lay three eggs and one being fertile but died in the shell. The pair at Otorohonga did lay a clutch but nothing came from them.  

Egmont met a milestone with 100 known birds on the mountain. 

  • 77 Eggs 
  • 49 Fertile 
  • 40 Hatched 
  • 33 Ducklings reared. 

All released. 

Release Tongariro March 11, 2014 

6 Captive breed. 

Release Egmont  March 13, 2014 

14 Captive breed 

2 Whione                                  

Release Manganui –a-te-ao March 20, 2014 

13 Captive breed birds 

Released Birds to Date from 2000 to 2014 

141 released Egmont National Park 

25 released Manganui –a-te-ao 

12 released Tongariro area 


Deaths for the year 3.1 

1 male Auckland Zoo 14 years 

1 male Staglands 13 years 

1 female Hamilton Zoo 18 years 

1 male Otorohanga 3 years 

Peter Russell 



Published in Issue 161
Sunday, 20 January 2019 05:59

Northland Pateke recovery

The milestone for Pateke this year is seeing the Northland flock count top the 2000 recovery plan of 750 birds.
Dangerous as it is to make any assumptions, it would appear that the natural spread of wild birds on this part of the Northland coast is benefiting from the expanding network of loosely linked conservation projects carried out by a wide range of operators, including DOC, NRC, Forestry, farmers, and individual land care groups. Birds that fly out of one trapped zone are likely to arrive in another.
Overall the graphed flock count results for the traditional Pateke strongholds - Northland, Great Barrier Island and Moehau  on Coromandel, are tracking in the right  direction, upwards.
In the words of our science advisor for the  PRG, the Pateke Captive Breeding Programme has to be the most successful in NZ, and quite possibly the world. Breeders take a bow. To consistently make available for release upward of 200 birds annually, is no mean feat. Congratulations to you all.
As I see it there are two main drivers for Pateke recovery:
1) Groups engaged in habitat restoration and trapping.
2) The annual crop of captive bred birds.
As of now, these appear to be self balancing,  although this may change as more, suitable habitat becomes available through conservation efforts. Not a serious problem to have!

Captive Breeding

Kevin Evans does an amazing job  coordinating this effort. How he keeps it up I have no idea.
In 2014, 158 birds have been released into Puerua north east of the Bay of Islands, bringing release there to 288. It’s an area with few stoats, but they initially experienced  problems with cats. They are now on top of  this.
Another 12 birds were due for release this  August.

Recovery Group Future

Following the recent DOC reshuffle, it would  seem that Technical Advisory Groups will replace the recovery groups.
In English, we will see Groups designed to provide advice on large clusters of work around species and ecosystems.
It’s unlikely Pateke will be in a group of its own, but a possible special case may apply because of the captive breeding programme. We can expect it to shake its self out over the next 12 months.
Certainly it’s important that organisations like DU continue to foster close working relationships with people within the DOC structure. Build bridges, not enemies!!!
Mike Camm


Published in Issue 161
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