Ducks are flocking to WWT Arundel Wetland Centre. And while many pitch up looking somewhat drab and bedraggled after a hectic summer on the breeding grounds, they can now enjoy an autumn makeover, preparing to look their best for next spring. You can expect to see some fabulous new looks as the males recover from migration and begin to acquire their breeding plumage.
Male tufted ducks will be putting on the style, looking dapper in black and white: if in doubt, look for the ‘ponytail’ tuft which is something of a giveaway.
The humble wigeon will also soon be looking simply wonderful, a mustard-coloured stripe down the male’s chestnut head ensuring that he’ll be top of the ‘eye candy’ list wherever he goes.
And the teal, the smallest of the dabbling ducks, described by former Autumnwatch presenter Kate Humble as ‘the Ziggy Stardust of the bird world’, will be putting on the style. The male combines dark red head feathers with a broad metallic green patch over each eye, highlighted by a yellow line around the edge, to ensure he stands out in the flock.
Dave Fairlamb of Arundel Wetland Centre says: “The UK is one of the world’s top hotspots for migrating ducks, due to our global position. They’re been arriving in British wetlands in huge numbers to escape the oncoming Arctic winter.
“It’s also the time of year when wild ducks look their finest. The males have an amazing range of colours – gold, green and red – and large numbers of them are starting to gather in multi-colour flocks in front of our bird hides. ”
After the breeding season ducks moult their feathers, losing the ability to fly, so males avoid the attention of predators by taking on the more camouflaged appearance of the females. Autumn is the time for them to fly south to escape the winter cold, and then to spend time growing new feathers with which to make themselves irresistible to prospective mates.
WWT Arundel Wetland Centre is eagerly anticipating the winter visitors, with ground staff busy putting in all the work needed to prepare for this annual influx of birds.
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