Rare ducklings form friendship at Auckland Zoo

Two newly-hatched Auckland Zoo ducklings have formed a friendship after the rare native birds were matched up by keepers. 

The pair were brought together to keep each other company, but will eventually have to separate and go out into the wild on their own.  

They're as close as siblings, but the ducklings are actually more like distant cousins. 

One of them - a rare whio which hatched at Auckland Zoo two weeks ago - was the only blue duckling to survive incubation. 

"They don't tend to do very well on their own, they get quite distressed so we wanted to find him some company," said bird keeper Natalie Clark.

Bird keepers matched him up with the closest thing they had - a rare paateke duckling - and the unlikely pair quickly formed a bond. 

"It was a little bit of a risk we had to take putting the two of them together. We didn't know how it would go. There was a slight age difference. There's a week gap between the two of them. There's a bit of a size difference," Clark said.

"It's gone really well and they actually now rely on each other quite heavily for their company and their confidence."

The three and two-week old ducklings have now moved out of their brooder tub and into a bigger aviary, and although there's a bit of friendly rivalry, the flat-mates seem to be enjoying their newfound independence.  

Both of the rare birds are part of a Department of Conservation bred-for-release programme, and will only stay at the zoo for two months before the whio joins other North Island whio in Turangi and the paateke is taken to Christchurch. 

"They'll join up with more of their own species long term and eventually be released out into the wild," Clark said.

For now they're keeping each other company, until their friendship becomes a long-distance one.