Sunday, August 06, 2006

Paradise Ducks

The Paradise Duck

Tadorna variegata is a large gooselike duck native to New Zealand. It was discovered first by Captain Cook at Dusky Sound in 1773 during his second voyage. Cook called it the Painted Duck It was formally, before the settlement by Europeans, fairly rare but with the clearing of forests, the establishment of pastures and the construction of many thousands of small dams they have become very common indeed.

A species does not have to be alien to be invasive as the paradise duck shows, but on the other hand this increase in population has not damaged any ecosystem even though it may have become a nuisance to farmers.The alteration of the environment by man has opened up more space for the ducks to move into.The ducks may also have adapted or evolved to fit this new environment. A census in 1981 showed that there were 70000 on the North Island and 50000 on the South Island and numbers have increased considerably since then. Hundreds of pairs can sometimes be seen grazing on pastures. And will raid other crops particularly when moulting In fact, special paradise duck hunting seasons are necessary to stop large mobs damaging farm paddocks with their grazing.

They live in pars staying together for life though it is said that the male is more faithful than the female in that if the female is injured the male will remain with her but if the male is injured the female will soon find another healthy mate. They reach sexual maturity at two years, and build nests in long grass,underneath logs or sometimes in trees, lining the nests with grass and down. Chicks fledge at eight weeks. Like many other duck they will feign injury and use this guise as a decoy to protect their young, taking the danger on a ‘wild goose chase’.

Both the male and female have striking plumage, the male has a black head and barred black body with white on the wing when flying, the female a white head with a chestnut or bronze body. Their calls are diverse, a deep ‘zonk zonk’ from the male and a shrill ‘zeek zeek’ from the female.


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