Living Coasts, Torquay’s coastal zoo, are hand rearing 4 eider ducklings.
The ducklings are rarely seen in zoos, however these ducks have certainly taken to the English Riviera.
Currently the Eider Ducklings are being fed on a diet of mini crickets and mealworms up to five times a day and specialist pellets.
Lois Rowell, Senior Keeper said:
They’re being hand reared because the females were all trying to lay in the same nest. We have a further two fertile eggs in the incubator – these were taken from the mother because the nest site is prone to flooding in the heavy rain. She is on dummy eggs and we hope to give her eggs back before they hatch
Lois is currently acting as their surrogate mother ensuring they have access to food and are supervised near water.
Despite being ducks, Eider Ducklings are not yet water proof.
Preening helps to make them waterproof and they do this more after swimming.
English Riviera Home to Spectacled Eiders
Living Coasts, Torquay is home to three females and two males, with both of the males being fathers this year.
The ducklings are from two clutches that first hatched on Thursday 28th June and the other two are from Saturday 30th.
Eggs typically take around 24 days to fully hatch.
Lois went on to say
We last bred four years ago and some of those offspring are the parents to these ducklings.
Spectacled Eiders or Somateria fischeri, to give them their correct name, are large sea ducks that are typically found on the inshore waters and coastal tundra of Alaska and Siberia.
However, these animals are threatened by both hunting and climate change.
Eider Ducklings Able to drink salt water
The adults can be identified by special glands which allow them to drink sea water, but with the ducklings these are not yet full developed.
So the youngsters require access to fresh water in which to learn to swim. This is the one reason why the ducklings are being reared by the keepers; another is their curious neighbours.
Living Coasts Curator, Clare Rugg explained:
They are hard to keep because they have very particular needs, including a large salt water pool for swimming and displaying and thick vegetation in which to lay their eggs. We have been very successful with them over the years – partly because we have a great team of keepers here. We have moved many adult birds on to other collections.
They share the beach with the penguins, who can be very inquisitive over eggs. So we take in the eider eggs, hatch them, rear the ducklings and get them swimming. They go out on Penguin Beach in a crèche, so they can see the other ducks and get used to their home.”
For more information go to www.livingcoasts.org.uk or ring 0844 474 3366.