Upper catchments of the Makarora

Upper River Catchments – The Essence Of Life

Upper Siberia – breeding habitat of the endangered South Island whio.

Target threatened species: Whio / blue duck (Southern) an ancient endemic waterfowl species of New Zealand – Nationally and Globally Endangered (IUCN Threat Classification Sysytem).

Blue duck
Blue duck (adult male)

Focus areas include: the Blue, the Young Rivers, the Siberia Valley, the north branch of the Wilkin, the Tiel, upper Makarora and associated areas.

Surveys undertaken to ascertain the current status of Blue duck / whio within the Makarora Catchment commenced this survey season (2017/2018) with the aid of an experienced whio surveyor and his protected species survey dog.

whio survey
Protected species survey dog in action on whio survey in the Siberia Valley, Makarora

A breeding pair was confirmed for the upper Siberia Valley and two adult males were recorded on the Young River. Several moulting sites were also noted during February surveys. This is when whio moult their feathers and are most inconspicuous and vulnerable. Further walkover surveys are planned for 2018/2019, 2019/2020, 2020/2021, 2021/2022.

fledgling whio Makarora
2017/2018 Makarora fledgling whio (Paul van Klink)
Whio primary feather,  moult field sign
Whio feathers field signs









Whio occupy a unique ecological niche being well adapted to fast flowing water and bolder habitats. This freshwater environment also support a variety of other wildlife such as eels, fish, aquatic plants and aquatic invertebrates.

Whio are considered an indicator of environmental quality with their presence confirming a clean and healthy water body able to support macro-invertebrates such as mayfly, stonefly  larvae and caddisfly which sustain the diet of this species.

Current and future invasive mammalian predator control concentrates on locations where remnant populations persist, often overlapping with rock wren habitat within alpine basins. The aim is to restore and enhance whio populations within the Makarora catchment in line with other successful catchments identified within the DOC national whio restoration plan.

Whio ducklings, Siberia Valley 2019.

Reference: Birds as Biodiversity and Environmental Indicators (2017). Journal of Natural Sciences Research. ISSN 2224-3186. VO7, No. 21.