Monday, 22 July 2013

Duckery at Castle Espie

What is a Duckery, you may ask? 
It is an intensive care unit for rearing ducks and geese from egg to young bird.  All the birds in this video have been reared at WWT at Castle Espie, County Down, Northern Ireland.  The specialist skills used enables the wardens to achieve the unrivalled conservation work, thus helping to save threatened bird species around the world.

This first video I have put together is explaining the work carried out in the Duckery from collecting the eggs to the releasing of the young birds into the collection.  It can be access at

I have taken another video of all the ducklings in the Duckery however before you see that,  I will show you a few stills and a little information regarding some of them.

Above and below there are Cape Teal ducklings at different stages of development.

Ferruginous Ducklings
These have been put on the ’vunerable’ list in some parts of the world.  The female nests under bushes near the water’s edge and the chicks are very nervous and while in the Duckery, like to have the company of other ducklings to keep them calm.
Smew Ducklings
Whistling adult ducks with their 4 ducklings
Bufflehead Ducks (seen on video below)

The name ‘Bufflehead’ is a shortened form of ‘buffalo-head’.   Normally these birds nest in a tree hole made from by the Northern Flicker (a woodpecker) and has sharp claws to cling to the bark and can squeeze through a 6 cm hole!  They spend their summers in Alaska, central and southern Canada, and in the winter are found in southern Alaska, east coast of Canada and the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of USA.  I am sure many of you have seen these in the wild.

Marbled Teal (seen on video below)
This is a very elegant bird and was once very common, however now it is on the threatened list due to pollution of wetlands, hunting and egg collection.  Normally nest in clumps of grass or even on roofs of huts.  It feed on seeds and invertebrates, dabbing and filtering mud.  It spends its summer in Spain, north-west Africa, Turkey, Middle East, Caspian area and south-west Asia.  In winter, it can be found in North and West Africa, Pakistan and Iran.

On the video I show you a great collection of 5 different ducks; however I forgot to say that among them were some Wood and Mandarin ducks.  Perhaps some of you will spot them?

Now the video can be accessed at

Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoyed hearing about the Duckery at Castle Espie and seeing all the ducklings they have at present.  

MANY THANKS to ALL who left comments yesterday in any of my posts. 
 I appreciate ALL of them.


  1. Margaret, it's good to see some of the work that goes on behind the scenes at the WWT. I take it that all of these ducklings will be put on display and non are destined to be put back into the wild.

    I think I heard the chap on the video say that one species of duck there was not threatened in the wild so, if that's the case, why are they being captive bred? How is that relevant to conservation work?...[;o)

    1. Hi The Herald,

      One reason we breed birds from around the world at our WWT Wetland Centres is to save species from extinction, for instance the Hawaiian geese that you can see at Castle Espie, but there are several.

      While the Cape teal that you see in the video are thankfully doing well in the wild, they play an important role in engaging people with the story of wetlands around the world and the threats they face. They are part of the fauna of Lake Natron, a salt lake in Tanzania, which is under threat from a soda ash plant. Their specific adaptations make them a great example with which to introduce people to the form and function of wildfowl.

      No less important is to ensure our expert aviculturists are prepared for all eventualities, by having unparalleled experience in breeding and caring for a range of bird types with a range of needs. Recently our aviculturists managed to avert the extinction of the Madagascar pochard, and we’re currently trying to achieve the same for the spoon-billed sandpiper – a very different bird.

  2. The ducklings are so sweet! I enjoyed seeing them all.

  3. from the moment the white-faced whistler family came on the screen to the end, i was smiling. SOOO cute. and such a variety of ducks!

    the white-faced are so beautiful! such rich and varied colors. remarkably, their babies look very similar to the whistling ducks we have here. :)

  4. Lovely ducklings, they are well looked after.

  5. They are just too sweet!! It's so good to see they are getting help when it's needed!!

  6. Two lovely videos and photos, thank you Margaret. I've never seen such a variety of sweet little ducklings, and the information was so interesting!

  7. These ducklings were so lucky to be there. The black and white Smews are so pretty, I have never even heard of them. Their beaks are a bit hooked on the end. Also the Whistling Ducks and their babies, so pretty...the babies with the grey and the yellow spots. I am guessing they really whistle?

  8. I enjoyed seeing some of their hard work. The ducks are gorgeous. I love the 'babies'.... Makes me want to bring several home with me... ha ha

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Cute little guys..thanks for sharing this information!