Nelson Nature fortnightly nature fix.
Welcome to the Nelson Nature fortnightly nature fix - a regular snippet about Nelson's natural environment, and what we can do to look after it. If you know anyone who you think might enjoy getting a regular nature fix, please pass this on and encourage them to sign up.
March is the month of the whio
Blue Duck - photo Bernard Spragg
The whio, or native blue duck, is a unique species found only in New Zealand. Sadly, as a result of a decline in habitat and the introduction of predators, whio are facing the risk of extinction.
Because of the rigours of their specific habitat, whio have developed distinctive physical features and behaviours.
They have streamlined bodies and heads, with large webbed feet that enable them to feed in fast flowing water. Their soft upper bill allows them to remove insect larvae off rocks. They have a very distinctive call
- you are more likely to hear the whio than you are to see one.
In the Nelson Region, whio can occasionally be found in the upper reaches of the Maitai River, and are an indicator species of a healthy river system. They nest in burrows and caves along the river bank which makes them prone to flooding during the breeding season.
Threats to whio habitat are the clearance of native forests and changes in river flows.
Stoats are a major predator of whio; they attack nesting females, steal eggs and prey on ducklings.
In addition, recreational activities in our remote waterways can disturb family groups during breeding seasons.
What can you do to help whio:
- Report sightings of whio in the Nelson area to the Nelson Nature team
- If you see whio, give them space and watch from a distance
- Keep rivers clean
- Don’t take your dog in areas where whio can be found – or keep them on a leash
- Support the protection of whio habitat through planting and waterway protection