Blue duck Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos


  • Grey-blue duck with pink bill.
  • Males give characteristic, hoarse whistle “whio”, while females give a rattling “crack” call.
  • Juveniles have a grey bill and lack chest plumage colouration.

Interesting Facts

  • Formerly widespread on fast-flowing, hill-country streams mostly within indigenous forest.
  • Range now much reduced, centred on Volcanic Plateau and Te Urewera in North Island and western side of Southern Alps.
  • Possess a fleshy lobe to undersurface of bill believed to assist with gleaning invertebrates from rocks and aquatic debris.
  • Pairs are territorial all year.
  • Nest under cover on stream banks.

Association with Plantations

  • Can be found in high quality and remote streams within plantation forest estates.
  • Most associations with plantations are in the Central North Island and West Coast areas.


  • Predation of eggs, young and adults by stoats and other predators.
  • Loss of native forest and shrubland habitat along streams through development.
  • Habitat flooding locally through hydro-electricity development.
  • Shooting, particularly in the past.
  • Trout may compete for food in some areas.

Management Options and Methods

  • Protection of wide riparian zones of indigenous species along streams likely to be used by whio.
  • Consider implementing predator control if pairs of whio are present and/or other groups (e.g. community/DOC) are implementing predator control in adjoining areas. Target predators are primarily mustelids and cats (refer kiwi).
  • Comply with best forest operational management practices to avoid damage to riparian areas and saltation of streams.
  • Raise awareness of staff and contractors of the presence of whio and the need to protect them.

Monitoring Options

  • Survey for presence of whio looking for birds, their sign (white faeces on rocks in streams) and listening for calls.
  • Contact local DOC staff for contributing to any existing monitoring programmes locally.
  • Maintain records of sightings, including broods.
  • Report findings to DOC.

Further Information and Support

  • Blue duck recovery plan. Threatened Species Recovery Plan 22. Department of Conservation.
  • Heather and Robertson 2000. The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand.
  • Predator control and monitoring – Department of Conservation.
  • Whio: Saving New Zealand’s Blue Duck by David Young (2006, Craig Potton Publishing NZ).
  • Department of Conservation website.