Meet whio | blue duck | Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos.

Whio are an icon of New Zealand's backcountry, found only in clean, fast flowing streams in the forested upper catchments of our rivers.

March is Whio Awareness Month, so it is a great time to learn more about this iconic species. Visit www.whioforever.org.nz for more information.

Ruahine whio are protected by a hard-core team of stoat-trapping volunteers and DoC's aerial pest control programme.

Advertisement

What you need to know about whio.

Threat status: Threatened – Nationally vulnerable.

There are less than 3000 whio remaining and that number is still declining due to habitat loss and predation.

Whio were once widespread throughout New Zealand but are now limited to isolated populations in the middle of the North Island and along the west coast of the South Island.

The Ruahine whio population is now the southern-most population remaining in the North Island.

Likely to be spotted at: Upper river catchments in the Ruahine ranges.

Try Iron Gates Hut and listen down by the river at dusk and dawn.

Most people will not get to see whio in the wild but visit the Wildbase Recovery Centre and look out for the pair living there as part of the national whio recovery programme.

Most likely to be: White-water rafting.

Whio are white-water specialists with big webbed feet for navigating fast flowing rivers.

You would be pretty lucky to spot one though - whio are masters of camouflage and use the river to evade threats.

You might not know that: Whio are flightless when they moult (they lose all of their flight feathers at the same time).

This makes them more vulnerable to predators, such as stoats, ferrets and dogs.

If you spot whio, you should:

· Report sightings to DoC Manawatū.

· Give wildlife some space. Keeping your distance is important to avoid stress and harm to wildlife.

Visit the Kiwi way and look after our place while enjoying nature this summer.

We all have a responsibility to care for Aotearoa and our special native species.

To find out more about local species or conservation work, contact DoC Manawatū on (06) 3509700 or visit www.doc.govt.nz