Duck Off!

Yesterday I read a headline saying that ruddy ducks in the UK were down to only 120 individuals.  Ho hum, thought I, another species being driven to the verge of local extinction by cruel happenstance.

Today I read the full story, and discovered a rather different state of affairs.  Apparently Oxyura Jamaicensis is being systematically wiped out at the request of our friends in Spain.  It would appear this is not evidence of further prejudice against our strawberry blonde friends – the name ruddy comes from the reddish plumage the male duck acquires when on the prowl for a bit of (stiff) tail.  He also acquires a case of blue bill  – and no that is not a mis-print, “i” is very much the vowel for which I was aiming.

No, like American GIs, the ruddy duck came to these shores in the 40s (though unlike the GIs, did not largely return home at the end of the last unpleasantness) and has been having its wicked way with local white-tailed ducks  – I presume by offering the waterfowl equivalent of nylons.  It seems the male white-tailed duck is quite unable to compete with this interloper in the avian boudoir, and as a result the stiff upper-lipped (and tailed) white-tailed duck is disappearing to be replaced by the (quite literal) bastard love-children of the male ruddy duck.

It would seem that the epithet “ruddy” can also be applied in its pejorative British meaning to the duck.  As a result, some 4400 (could there be a TV series here?) have been shot in recent years – though I have been unable to ascertain whether they make for good eating (though with only 120 left, they are a dwindling potential source to form a tasty partnership with the world’s most widely grown tree (and, very definitely, not the only) fruit – Citrus sinensis).

Apparently, trade in the ruddy duck is illegal without a licence – leading me to imagine criminal duck-trading rings.  Black market pochards or wigeons being traded in the reedy back streets of our major cities to satisfy the cravings of desperate adduckts.

I could apologise, but we both know that, like Edith Piaf, I have no regrets.

2 thoughts on “Duck Off!

  1. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    Teal me about it! I’m crake-ing in my boots for fear of where this might lead. Though, from what I’m heron, it’s just stork at this stage.

    Still, I guess it would be nothing smew for me to go too far. Eider way, there’s no point rail-ing against it.

    I think this might count as an abuse of my RSPB membership…

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