DTI001 20_12_17 

Bengalese Finches
British Birds
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Protect, prevent, preserve

In the second article of his three-part series on garden ducks, PHILIP SCHOFIELD suggests suitable enclosures

All domestic breeds of duck descend from the mallard, apart from the Muscovy,  which is derived from the wild Cairina moschata, a perching duck from Latin America

LET us look at what is needed to keep one or more pairs of ornamental wildfowl in the garden. Their basic needs are to be protected from predators, prevented from escaping and made to feel secure at all times.

Ducks are, of course, safest in the aviary, completely enclosed by wire netting. However, this needs to be big enough. A pair of teal – there are many species of teal available – can be comfortable in a pen as small as 3m2 (10ft2). This allows room for appropriate planting, a small pond and sufficient room for them to run around without reducing the ground area to a muddy mess.

Ideally, two of the aviary sides should be solid, to give protection from weather and security for the birds. Your ducks should not be able to see people (or passing predators) on all four sides of their enclosure, otherwise they will panic, try to get away and always be in a state of nervous uncertainty. If two sides are solid, they will retreat to the corner if they feel threatened, and gain in confidence as they come to appreciate that nothing can get at them.


Plus points and pitfalls of ponds

In the final one of his three articles on keeping waterfowl in the garden, PHILIP SCHOFIELD looks at the pros and cons of constructing a pond for your ducks

A good example of a home-made pond, with a bunch of Bahama pintails to boot!

IN MY previous two articles, I looked at a number of ways to house ducks in your garden. However, there is one more way of keeping ducks, but it is fraught with difficulties and can only work in special circumstances.
A very large, natural pond can hold pinioned ducks of the diving species, even if it is not fenced. Diving ducks are more aquatic than dabblers, and if they have half an acre of water they are likely to stay there. A few small domestics such as call ducks will help to “anchor” the divers.

Drawbacks to this system

  • If there is any outflow to a watercourse, one day your ducks will swim away down it.
  • If the pond freezes completely in winter, the ducks will be at the mercy of foxes.
  • There is always a risk of predation by otters and mink.

Garden duck delights

In the first article of his three-part series on keeping ducks, PHILIP SCHOFIELD explains the difference between domestics and wildfowl, and suggests easy-to-keep species for beginners

Mandarins are stunning to look at but, at first, they can be nervousMOST people enjoy looking at ducks. Many of them are very beautiful and each species has its own unique characteristics.

Almost any outdoor space can be enhanced by the addition of ducks, but it is essential to choose the right ducks to avoid disaster and disappointment.
Captive waterfowl are divided into two categories – wildfowl and domestics. Domestic ducks (geese are beyond the scope of this article) have been bred in captivity for hundreds of years and have altered in shape, size and colour as a result.

All domestic breeds descend from the mallard, apart from the Muscovy (Cairina moschata), which descends from the wild Muscovy – a perching duck from South America. In comparison, wildfowl have only been kept in captivity for, at most, a couple of hundred years, and have not altered in shape from their wild ancestors, although many have now diverged into colour mutations. Read more...

Families in Focus: Waterfowl

BILL NAYLOR looks at the plethora of birds that make up the waterfowl family – from ducks to geese to swans

Striking in flight: Egyptian gooseTHE 147 TYPES of birds collectively known as waterfowl are instantly identifiable. They vary in size from the cotton pygmy teal (Nettapus coromandelianus), which weighs 160 grams and is only 26cm (10in) long, to the trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator), which can weigh as much as 17kg (371/2lb) and has a wingspan of 3m (10ft).

Of the seven species of swans, the South American Coscoroba swan (Coscoroba coscoroba) is thought to be a link between the swans and the 14 species of true geese. “Goose” is also the common name of a number of non-goose species such as the Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus). Apart from the trumpeter swan, swans are not usually very vocal, unlike geese which have a rich vocabulary of calls. Female ducks usually have deeper voices than drakes and it’s the female who usually makes the quack call. Read more...

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