The ill-fated and only duck of Niue
Becky Crew is a Sydney-based science communicator with a love for weird and wonderful animals. From strange behaviours and special adaptations to newly discovered species and the researchers who find them, her topics celebrate how alien yet relatable so many of the creatures that live amongst us can be.
USUALLY AT this blog we showcase the animals of Australia and its neighbours to highlight the unique wildlife we’ve got all around us – the endemic weirdness that comes from evolving and adapting on islands great and small.
This time is a little different because this animal doesn’t belong where it was found, and it no longer exists. But let’s just roll with it, because how often do we get to talk about Niue, one of the smallest nations on Earth?
Located about 5,800 km east of Australia, and right in the middle of Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands, the tiny island of Niue spans just 261 square kilometres (Sydney, by comparison, is more than 12,000 km2). Built of limestone caves and cliffs and rich, tropical rainforests, Niue is the largest raised coral atoll in the world.
It has a special relationship with New Zealand, because while Niue is a self-governing state, New Zealand conducts most of its diplomatic relations. Niueans are citizens of New Zealand, and between 90% and 95% of Niuean people actually live in New Zealand. The population living on Niue, which is predominantly Polynesian, numbers merely 1,600 people.
There are very few plant and animal species living on Niue, and only a handful are unique to the island.
The the Niue Blue (Nacaduba niueensis) is the only endemic butterfly species on the island. There are also endemic subspecies of the Polynesian triller (Lalage maculosa whitmeei), the Polynesian starling (Aplonis tabuensis brunnescens), and the purple-capped fruit-dove (Ptilinopus porphyraceus whitmeei), which looks an awful lot like the Rose-crowned fruit dove (Ptilinopus regina), an Australian native.
It was also home, until very recently, to a single duck named Trevor.
No one knows where Trevor came from, and it certainly wasn’t Niue, because Niue doesn’t have ducks. Why does Niue not have ducks? Well, because it has no rivers, streams, or lakes.
One day last year, Trevor turned up in a puddle formed by recent rains, and the locals took pity on him, and took it upon themselves to keep topping the puddle up:
Thought to have flown (or unwittingly blown) in from New Zealand, Tonga, or another of the surrounding islands, Trevor soon became a beloved entity on the island of Niue.
And not just among the human inhabitants, who considered him a local landmark – “turn right at the duck” – but among the local birdlife, too. Trevor was friends with a rooster, a chicken and a weka, who would regularly visit him at his puddle.
I could go on and on about the wonder that is Trevor. About how he was named after a New Zealand politician, Trevor Mallard, and how he was known as “the loneliest duck on Niue,” which couldn’t be further from the truth, because the locals couldn’t get enough of him, bringing him treats of rice, cabbage, and corn. But we have to put a pin in Trevor’s story, because Trevor is no more.
Savaged by dogs earlier this year, Trevor was taken from his adopted Niue family far too soon. So, RIP, Trevor, you were too good for this world.
Quack in peace, Trevor. Quack in peace.https://t.co/VkoUoCHCwy
— Gareth Barlow (@GarethBarlow) January 29, 2019
We’ll leave you with this footage of Trevor being a very happy boy in his puddle: