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Whio as a Freshwater Indicator Species

Managing the Taupō Fishery
The Water Cycle

Whio are good indicators of a river’s health. If they are present in a river or stream the water is considered to be in a very healthy state.

Whio habitat

Whio are well adapted to living in and around cold, fast flowing, clean rivers. They usually swim and only fly if disturbed, or patrolling their territory. Whio feed mainly on the larvae of caddisfly, mayfly, stonefly, and on freshwater snails. They breed in forest surrounding the river.

An endangered bird

Whio are now only found in some parts of the North and South Island. Their low breeding success is thought to be due to:

  • stoats killing females sitting on nests and eating eggs and chicks
  • disturbance or attacks by rats, dogs, cats and possums
  • a disappearing habitat by cleared forests and reduced river flow
  • certain farming practices that reduce oxygen levels in water and kill off whio's food
  • building nests in areas affected by flooding and which are easy for stoats to attack.

Saving Whio

Whio are one of our most endangered endemic birds. The Department of Conservation has a partnership with Genesis Energy to secure the future of whio. Genesis Energy runs a hydro power station which uses water from the Tongariro River. They make sure enough water keeps flowing downstream for whio. They also provide funding for projects like Whio Forever.

Audio Māori keywords: 

Find out more: To learn more about whio - check out the LEARNZ Blue Duck field trip from 2009 (ask your teacher for the username and password for access to the site). Also take a look at Whio Forever.

Whio like cold, fast flowing, clean rivers. Image: LEARNZ.

If whio are living in a river, the water is probably in a healthy state. Image: LEARNZ.

Healthy water means lots of food for whio. Image: LEARNZ.

Genesis Energy uses water from the Tongariro River for their hydro power station, but makes sure there is enough water flowing downstream for animals such as whio that rely on the river. Image: LEARNZ.

Managing the Taupō Fishery
The Water Cycle