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Published: 2007-02-09 00:00:00

Waikato wetlands are a haven for the grey duck, now considered nationally endangered by the Ministry of Conservation. 

Swamp goers may be lucky enough to spot this duck as they celebrate World Wetlands Day at the Kopuatai Peat Dome in the Hauraki Plains this Saturday.

“The Waikato is a stronghold for wetlands,” said Environment Waikato wetlands scientist Karen Denyer.

“We have half of New Zealand’s internationally recognised wetlands in our region, including Kopuatai. It’s important we preserve them along with our lesser-known wetlands for threatened species like the grey duck.”

The Minster of Conservation released the updated endangered species list on January 16. The total number of threatened species was 2788, up 416 from October 2002.

The grey duck’s status changed from serious decline to nationally endangered.

“It’s not just habitat loss but interbreeding with mallards that is intensifying the population decrease,” Ms Denyer said.

“The bigger mallard drakes mate with the grey ducks, producing hybrid ducklings and reducing the number of pure greys.”

Grey ducks have been seen in all of Waikato’s major wetlands, with large numbers in the Whangamarino. They use the wetlands for breeding and as a winter home.

“About 75% of Waikato’s fresh water wetlands have been drained in the past 150 or so years,” Ms Denyer said.

Fish & Game NZ and the National Wetland Trust are running the Kopuatai fieldtrip to raise awareness of Waikato’s wetlands, which are internationally known. Environment Waikato councillors Lois Livingston and Andra Neeley will be attending this tomorrow and are looking forward to their swampy adventure.

“These are very important ecosystems, home to so many types of birds, bugs, fish and plants,” Cr Livingston said. “Many of these exist nowhere else in the world.”

“We’ll be walking among 250-year-old trees in Kopuatai and visiting the Waitoa canal,” Cr Neeley said. “I’m ready to get my wellies wet.”

Ms Denyer said the 220 people lucky enough to have booked on the trip should check out ponds for the grey duck, a small mallard-like bird with green legs, feet and wing feathers, instead of the blue feathers and orange feet typical of the similar-looking female mallards.

“If you manage to spot one, you’ve seen one of our rarest ducks.”