When it comes to trips, mallard ducks like to keep it local.

So when a mallard duck couple from the Hauraki Plains took matters into their own wings and flew 2000km to the idyllic New Caledonian island of Lifou, researchers suspect they must've been desperate for a tropical vacay.

"It's extraordinarily unusual," said Auckland-Waikato Fish & Game Wildlife Manager John Dyer.

"Only a handful make it that far and to have two turn up on one tiny island? Maybe they just wanted a tropical holiday."


The majority of banded New Zealand mallards never move more than 25km from their home and historical Fish and Game data suggests only 0.0001 per cent mallards make these heroic sorts of journeys.

"It is the first time two banded mallards have turned up together."

The two mallards, one drake and one hen, had been recently banded by Auckland and Waikato Fish and Game staff and hunter-volunteers from Paeroa and the Hauraki Plains.

Part of the organisation's annual species monitoring programme, 4000 mallard and grey ducks are banded in the Auckland-Waikato region each year.

Hunters can help to keep the season sustainable and more is learned about the ducks that were introduced from Britain and the USA between 80 and 160 years ago.

The public can contribute by reporting numbers on the bands worn by any birds they come across.

The far-flung birds - one of which appeared exhausted - came to the attention of a vet on Lifou Island who contacted the Department of Conservation Banding Office in Wellington, which notified Fish & Game.

The ducks were among 880 mallard and grey ducks banded in Pipiroa less than two weeks before.


Their relationship status was unclear.

"We banded them on separate days," said Dyer, "but that's not to say they hadn't been together and left together."

Mallard ducks don't mate for life, they select their peer bond each year and reform it, joining for Spring to lay their nests, Dyer explained. "Once incubated, the male hangs out with all the boys and the female is left to raise the kids.

"Actually, in urban situations the male will hang around sometimes, possibly because it's better for getting free food."

HELPING NATURE: Volunteers and Auckland Waikato Fish and Game staff on the job with banding ducks. PHOTO/Supplied.
HELPING NATURE: Volunteers and Auckland Waikato Fish and Game staff on the job with banding ducks. PHOTO/Supplied.

Dyer said the information gleaned from reportings of the numbered bands was valuable, and a big surprise to hear from someone in New Caledonia.

Lifou is an island 81km long and 24km wide in the Loyalty group, and home to around 10,000 people.

Found a bird with a band? report it to Department of Conservation at bandingoffice@doc.govt.nz or call the local Fish and Game office, and you go into an annual prize draw organised by Fish and Game.