Couple become serial breeders

Saving the species one hatching at a time

EMMA HORSLEY
Last updated 12:00 04/12/2012
Brown teal duck
MURRAY WILSON/Fairfax NZ

CUTE AND FLUFFY: All seven of the latest hatching of Victoria Esplanade's pateke or brown teal ducks.

Brown teal duck
MURRAY WILSON/Fairfax NZ
IN A FLAP: One of the ducklings tests out his wings.

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Two pretty water fowl in Palmerston North are doing more than their fair share to regenerate the low population of brown teal ducks, producing 105 ducklings in just five years.

Pateke, or brown teal, is the rarest waterfowl species in the South Island, with fewer than 2500 birds living in a wild state.

For several years breeding programmes have been in place throughout the country but a pair of teal ducks at Victoria Esplanade has left the others in their wake.

Each year the pair, that have been together since 2006, put out three clutches of six or seven eggs, and the most recent hatching on November 19 of seven cute, fluffy ducklings took them over the 100 duckling mark.

"No-one has a breeding programme as successful as ours," said Palmerston North City Council aviary keeper Peter Russell.

Mr Russell said he was not sure what made the ducks produce so many new ducklings but he thought it could have something to do with their environment.

"It's nice and safe here for them, there's lots of cover and they are well looked after."

Keeping very close to mum, the seven ducklings paddled quietly around their pond, giving The Manawatu Standard photographer a run for his money trying to get a good action shot.

Mr Russell said he expected to get another handful of ducklings this season after the current ones got moved out by dad.

"Once they get to a certain size and dad has had enough of them and wants to get cosy with mum again."

Then they will be sent to Peacock Springs in Christchurch for duckling finishing school before being released into the wild, probably in Northland.

The productive pair will be kept at the Esplanade until they stop breeding.

"And then we'll get another pair, I suppose," Mr Russell said.

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- The Manawatu Standard

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