This week we are looking at the Ruddy Duck.
A friend of mine recently told me that he had seen one on the canal outside his flat, and that it looked quite nice. What better duck to focus on for this blog, I thought.
The Ruddy Duck is a native of North and South America, inhabiting marshes and ponds.
The drake is brown, with a black and white head and a quite striking blue bill. Here’s a picture. I confess I’ve never seen one; I would definitely have remembered the bill.
The female – the duck – resembles a mallard duck in that it is speckled brown, but has a much darker bill. They feed on seeds, aquatic insects and crustaceans.
In the UK, they’re based in the West Midlands, the north of England,
Anglesey and south Scotland. It was introduced to Europe in the 1940s, and has flourished in our temperate climate, which brings me on to the interesting fact about the Ruddy Duck.
Like I said, they flourished, and began to interbreed with other species, most notably the endangered White-headed Duck, a native of Spain and much of Southern Europe. This led to government sponsored eradication programmes. The Ruddy Duck did so well, especially in the UK, that it was seen as a threat to native European species and the decision was taken to get rid of them. Even the RSPB supported the widespread culling of Ruddys, saying that they were concerned for the White-headed duck’s existence as the expense of the interlopers.
Between 2005 and 2010, almost £5million was apparently spent on a concerted effort to rid the UK of Ruddys. There was even a rather tongue-in-beak obituary published by the BBC. There are now only 150 left, and so my friend was very lucky to see one. I’m jealous. Although the cull has officially ended in Britain, in Spain it’s still going strong with eight birds being shot in 2008.
So next time you see a Ruddy Duck, relish the moment. You never know: it might be the last one in Europe!