Cracking new blue additions

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Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park has a few new additions to its feathery brood.

Four blue ducks, or whio, of which there are about 2000 in the whole country, hatched this week.

The endemic birds are classified by the Department of Conservation as “nationally vulnerable” and at risk of extinction.

Park boss Paul Kavanagh says all eight of the eggs in the batch are fertile.

“We have got four at various stages of hatching and four healthy, happy ducklings.”

The first hatched on Monday, followed by a second on Tuesday – and two yesterday.

Three incubators are in use while the eggs hatch – two are set at different humidity levels depending on how far along the hatching process the ducklings are and the third is set to be toasty warm for the new arrivals.

“The whole hatch takes between four and six days.

“We monitor during the process and move them between incubators depending on what stage they are at.”

Staffers use candling to assess the development of the embryo in the egg.

Kavanagh says that’s an important tool to ensure things are on track.

If there are any signs of stress the team may decide to step in and help hatching along.

The first couple of days are crucial for survival and hygiene is important, which is one of the reasons the park chooses to artificially hatch the birds.

“They are very, very endangered and we can increase the chances of hatch.

“We have two clutches already which is brilliant and in the wild they will generally do only one or two – by removing the eggs and incubating, you are not just increasing the chances of hatching but also increasing egg yield.”

The park team will send the ducklings’ feathers away to find out their genders. Once they’re all hatched and strong enough they’ll be released on the West Coast.

louise.scott@scene.co.nz