Let's all help the fabulous Blue Duck (whio)

Department of Conservation guidelines to protect whio (blue ducks) during encounters with kayakers. These guidelines appeared in NZ Canoeing 02.1, Summer 2002.

The West Coast's wild and turbulent rapids are home to a unique whitewater paddler - the blue duck (whio). This New Zealand icon feeds in whitewater, is very territorial, and is one of only four duck species world-wide to spend their entire lives in a river habitat.

The guidelines under trial this summer (2002) recognise that people and river craft can alarm whio - particularly when escape routes are restricted or ducklings are present. Kayakers can help by avoiding undue contact with whio in their river habitat and by monitoring whio by reporting sightings to any DOC office.

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  • Scan ahead for whio. When they are encountered be as quiet as possible, move slowly and deliberately, try to keep as far away as conditions and safety will allow. Combine with other craft to minimise the disturbance period. Above all else always try to manoeuvre past the birds without pushing them downstream.
  • If whio are moving towards your craft, take up a motionless position on the opposite bank until past. In wide sections take the widest route possible past the birds, and consider carrying craft along the opposite bank in narrow sections.
  • If whio are agitated eddy out at first available opportunity and give the birds time to settle. Evaluate the best avoidance method. If broods are split from parents, craft should eddy out as far away from the birds as possible - allow the birds to find each other again.
  • Maintain a distance that ensures they are not alarmed. They are best observed and photographed from a downstream vantage.

Points to note for reporting

  • Number of birds seen
  • Presence of chicks
  • Where the birds were seen
  • Time the birds were seen
  • Behaviour of birds during observation
  • Method employed to get past birds
  • Summary of the response of birds

For more information please contact Ian Gill at the West Coast Conservancy 03 755-8301 or igill{at}doc.govt.nz (Please replace the {at} with @ to email.).

Remember, non-sightings are as important as sightings. If you're on a river you know is a whio habitat, and see no ducks, please report this.