Wildfowl are not just for Christmas
Morag Jones, president of the British Waterfowl Association, advises caution when considering certain breeds of wildfowl for a new collection I AM a sucker for anything bright and shiny. Being the festive season, it is easy to get carried away this month in particular and justify an impulse purchase to yourself.
Planning ahead is definitely the key to success when devising a wildfowl collection and it is central to the advice offered by the British Waterfowl Association (BWA). This includes giving careful consideration on what to keep.
As the owner of a small household flock of chickens, I visited a breeder and I met my ‘gateway’ duck. My eye was caught by a gorgeous creature standing on a straw bale. His mate was sitting tight in a box nearby. From that moment I was hooked. He was a Mandarin, a species that has been the inspiration for many a collection and ideally so. Mandarin are easy to keep, propagate and rear. Sadly this is not the case for all birds that might be considered eye candy.
Whatever species you take on, you must know the special conditions that are required by your birds. There are many species that are not for the beginner. Even if you have the ability to provide state- of-the-art facilities from day one, what you cannot buy is experience.
So what makes some species so tricky? We should remember that wildfowl are just that — wild. They have never been domesticated and are diverse in hardiness and temperament. In general, a species that is easy to keep and breed will be readily available. If supply is plentiful, birds are not expensive to purchase. With these birds you will gain valuable experience and come to understand the nuances of specialist aviculture.
The other side of the coin involves species that are difficult to propagate. The laws of supply and demand naturally mean that there will be a premium to be paid. It could take you many years to breed these species successfully, if indeed they survive at all.
Some may not only be rare in captivity, but they could also be significant in world populations, so we have responsibilities as well as rights when it comes to what we do.
Visiting and listening to another experienced breeder is probably the most important part of your facility planning. But remember, whatever you start your collection with — wildfowl are not just for Christmas.
Morag Jones is president of the British Waterfowl Association and editor of Waterfowl Magazine.
A Carolina Wood duck is the ideal choice for anyone new to keeping wildfowl