Whisper by name but full of personality, Rotorua is mourning the loss of a bird who held a place in the hearts of many.
Whisper the ruru (morepork) joined the Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust as an egg in 2007 after being found by forestry workers in Rotorua, from a nest on the ground under an old ponga tree fern.
Her egg was artificially incubated and staff were delighted when she hatched on display in front of the public, and became part of the Wingspan team.
Wingspan executive director Debbie Stewart said Whisper was full of personality. Being hand reared, she was at home in human company and drew the affection of all who met her.
"Whisper didn't know she was a ruru, she just thought she was one of the staff members," Stewart said.
"It's unusual how people can be so endeared to such a lovely little bunch of feathers as she was but she touched many people and we've been quite overwhelmed by all the messages we've been receiving, on social media especially. It took us a bit by surprise, how many lives she touched. She is arguably the most famous ruru ever.
"Whisper was often people's first encounter with a ruru, it doesn't happen very often. All the birds we look after have their own personalities and stories. With Whisper, being rescued as an egg, she was able to make people melt - from big workers to small children."
Whisper's ease around humans saw her become a real ambassador for her species, giving never before seen insights into the behaviour and habits of the morepork.
She was the model for the first ruru growth poster chart, and taught Wingspan staff and visitors about calls, and rearing chicks - intimate behaviours that would not normally be seen in the wild.
She laid eggs every spring as well as fostering abandoned eggs from the wild. Many morepork who have since been released into the wild owe their lives to Whisper's efforts.
"She really epitomised the work that we do at Wingspan," Stewart said.
"She did, without question, teach us so, so much. Over the years when we had other rescued eggs, we could pop them underneath her and she would just sit on them and rear them.
"Whisper, and indeed ruru in general, don't have a sense of smell and they can't count so when we had other eggs that were being brought in she'd just take them as her own. She helped numbers in the wild and while it is sad she is gone, it is really nice to think she has left that legacy."
An autopsy will be completed, but staff believe the cause of Whisper's death was due to being egg bound and, sadly, nothing could be done for her.
Wingspan staff will hold a small private service to celebrate the life of their beloved Whisper and are looking at putting up a memorial photograph.