Successful hatching of whio ducklings 'the best Christmas present'

A perfect Christmas gift has arrived at Queenstowns's iconic Kiwi Birdlife Park - with a clutch of precious whio ducklings all successfully hatching. 

With just under 3000 blue ducks left in the wild, the species is at risk of becoming extinct.

The latest clutch of blue ducks is the third this year for Kiwi Birdlife Park - bringing hope for the struggling species.

Each bird is examined, tagged and weighed when it enters the world, before joining its brothers and sisters for a week in incubation.

"There's only a few thousand of these guys left so, this is just such a massive win in terms of their conservation, and because of the year we've had this is just the best Christmas present that we could be having at this point," says Al Browne, Kiwi Birdlife Park's head wildlife keeper.

"And they're beautiful and healthy and hopefully have a big future ahead of them." 

The endemic duck is threatened by introduced predators, but it was massive flooding in Fiordland last year that destroyed much of their natural habitat. 

That makes breeding programmes like the one at Kiwi Birdlife Park critical - and now the race is on for the rest of the eggs to hatch in time for Christmas.