Maori Name: Putangitangi
The Paradise Duck is endemic to
Prior to European settlement the Paradise Duck was not at all common, but numbers were soon on the increase when much of the native forest was converted to pasture. They are one of our few endemic species that have actually benefited from human interference, which in their case has extended their habitat with a greater variety of foods to supplement their diet.
Paradise Ducks are now widely distributed and considered to be quite common, so much so that they are only partially protected. They frequent pasture lands, tussock grasslands and wetlands in both main islands and also offshore islands.
They are usually seen in pairs, except during the annual moulting season (December to February) when the species will flock together on traditional moulting sites such as river beds, lakes, tarns or farm ponds.
When feeding, they mainly graze on grass and weeds or aquatic vegetation, but they have been known to raid grain or pea crops when flocking, and this has resulted in legal culls when they have become a pest. In general, any other hunting of Paradise Ducks must be carried out in the hunting season and numbers are controlled through bag limits, which are set by careful monitoring of movements and numbers throughout the country. This is to help prevent any decline due to over hunting in areas where numbers may be lower.
Being part of the shelduck family this species is a large duck at 63 centimetres, with the male weighing in at 1700 grams and the female at 1400 grams. Although both have striking plumage, it is the female who is the more distinctive in colouring. She has a pure white head with a chestnut orange body, while the male head is black with a greenish gloss and its body is grey barred with black. Both sexes have a green speculum and chestnut orange under tails, with distinctive white patches on the upper wings, mostly seen when in flight.
Paradise Ducks will often be heard before they are seen as they are very vocal birds. The male makes a ‘zonk zonk’, while females utters a more shrill ‘ze-eek ze-eek’ either when flying or as a warning.
Paradise Duck pairs remain together for life and only part during the moulting season when they join a flock. They defend a set territory during breeding season and return to the same nesting area year after year.
Mostly the nests will be placed on the ground hidden in high grass, but sometimes in tree hollows or beneath rotting logs. It is constructed of grass and then lined with down plucked from the duck’s own body.
During August or September the female will lay 9-10 eggs. She will then incubate them for around 28 days only leaving the nest a couple times each day to get food. When the eggs hatch, both parents will share the care of their young. It they feel there is any threat to their chicks, the parents’ protective instinct is to hang their wing down as if broken and try to lead the potential threat away from their offspring.
Although young males breed at around 2 years, the young female will be about 3 before she mates.
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