Nice weather for ducks...

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  • A female mallard enjoying some evening sunshine. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

    Ducklings on Allestree Lake in Derbyshire. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

    A male mallard among daffodils. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

    Swans swimming through flood water in Worcester on 1 May this year. Photo: David Davies/PA

  • Nice weather for ducks...
    17.05.2012 14:40

     

    It is human nature to look for the silver lining in any cloud, and rather touching that even when it is tipping down with rain we have the interests of waterfowl at heart.

    “Nice weather for ducks”, we suggest miserably from under our brollies. But do they like rain all that much?

    Ducks immerse themselves in water all the time and their feathers are waterproof so at worst they should be ambivalent. At the most basic level, the answer must of course be ‘yes, they do like rain’. Without it their ponds would dry up, although whether these members of the family Anatidae have the capacity to link such cause and effect is a matter of conjecture.

    There is more to it than that, of course. The diet of most ducks largely comprises insects and larvae, and these are more prevalent in wet weather. The mosquito, for example, thrives when it’s wet, and ducks and their offspring happily munch on their larvae.

    If the weather is particularly dry then ponds can become shallower and therefore warmer, harbouring diseases as well as depleting the ducks’ and ducklings’ natural larder.

    Speaking of ducklings, we come to a counter argument. Their feathers and preen glands not yet having properly developed, a downpour can easily turn them from an endearing ball of yellow fluff to a soggy mess, and their feathers are then unable to protect them from cold.

    Three years of research by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), though, culminating in a report in 2009, concluded that ducks, notwithstanding soggy ducklings, do indeed enjoy a sprinkling of rain.

    Seeking to understand how living conditions could be improved for farmyard ducks, DEFRA found that they tended to prefer standing under a shower to loafing in a pond or a water-filled trough.

    And who wouldn’t?

    By: Stephen Davenport