Putangitangi call downloaded from Kiwi Wildlife Tours NZ

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Paradise with Chicks
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Many of New Zealand's native birds are rare or extinct, following the recent arrival of people and the range of new predators we unthinkingly brought here with us (see my kiwi rant and weka story).
f=-Female Paradise duckHowever there are a few species of native birds that are thriving due to humans, such as the pukeko which lives on wet grassland (clearing bush for pasture has increased their habitat), and the hawk (which picks carrion off the roadside). Another which has had its habitat inadvertently increased by people is the 'Paradise Shelduck' (Known as Putangitangi in Maori, also often known as 'parries' for short).
Shelducks are like large ducks, not quite as large as geese. Mature Parries have obviously different plumage on the male and female, but unlike most birds it is the female with the most striking markings, their white head contrasting the chestnut body, while the male maintains the drab dark colour of adolescents. Their calls are also quite different, with the male having a much deeper voice (Parrie calls at Kiwi Wildlife Tours NZ).
After leaving the family group, parries mate for life, and seem to spend every moment together once they have paired-up, honking their his'n'hers duet as they fly together from place to place. Finding a single Putangi' is rare, and sobering for me as i contemplate the likely reason for their uncharacteristic solitude. For despite being native, it is not illegal to shoot these birds. While many of our native birds are struggling against inexorable decline and money is poured into exterminating their predators, the Putangitangi is hunted and shot along with introduced mallards. Many 'game' birds have learnt to find sanctuary in urban areas where discharging shotguns will get the mighty hunter in a spot of bother.
Fluffy ducks Christchurch (where i work during the week at present) was built on a swamp, and still has many springs feeding clear streams. The Avon 'river' (another overstatement) is just 100 metres from my accommodation. In spring this year i discovered that a pair of parries were raising a family in the city on the Avon.
I'm so cute  
These birds were accustomed to urban life, and really quite tame, letting me get slowly to within a few metres for some cute shots... The adults were ever vigilant though, positioning themselves between me and their young, and ultimately rounding them up and leading all 6 of them away from the intrusive human.
What ugly duckling? 
I caught up with the wee family again a few weeks later. The cute fluffy ducks were going through their ugly duckling stage, almost fully fledged into their adolescent plumage, significantly larger than before, but still quite a way off full size.
Stick togetherWhere before there had been 6 chicks, they had managed to bring five this far, testament to their parenting skills, and a stark contrast to the introduced mallards, which start with more yet finish with less.
Always watchful
Their dedication to parenting is evident even in these photos - both parents are omnipresent, and alert, keeping a vigilant watch on me, and constantly looking for any other potential threat to their family.
All of which will do them no good against someone with a shotgun who feels good about blowing living masterpieces into bloody pulp for manly or culinary amusement.
I can only hope that when their parents lead them into the countryside to forage, they teach them to give humans a far greater berth (which would be why i don't have any nice close-ups of local Putangitangi from Mt Elliot).
"Killing animals for sport, for pleasure, for adventures, and for hides and furs is a phenomenon which is at once disgusting and distressing. There is no justification in indulging in such acts of brutality."
                        - - The Dalai Lama of Tibet (1935-)
"All the arguments to 'prove' man's superiority can not shatter this hard fact: In suffering, the animals are our equals."
                        -Peter Singer"
"Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself."
                        - James A. Froude (1818-1894)
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Cursor following bees swiped from Jeff Davies site: Beekeeping the Natural Way using Oils and Herbs

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