A Word On The Birds
Working with our partners at Pensthorpe Natural Park, we are delighted to host new arrivals here including White-faced whistling duck, white-cheeked pintail and Mandarin Ducks. These stunning birds are currently making the area around the visitor centre their home and are the first species our guests see on arrival at Watatunga.
Also known as the Bahama Duck or Summer Duck, White-cheeked Pintails are native to the Caribbean, Galapagos and South America, and are a dabbling duck, feeding on small creatures and aquatic plants. Whilst usually found alone or in pairs, they form groups of up to a dozen birds in the Galapagos Islands. Living up to 32 years, White-cheeked Pintails incubate up to 10 eggs on their ground nest for 26 days.
There are believed to be around 10,000 of these birds in the wild, with numbers decreasing, so conservation efforts are being ramped up and they are now receiving special protection in their native lands.
Joining the Pintails here is a contender for World’s Best Looking Bird, the majestic Mandarin. As the name suggests, these birds are native to the Far East and the male has dazzling plumage whilst the female is more grey, with a white eye-stripe. Like their close relatives in the USA the Wood Duck, Mandarins nest in holes in trees, sometimes high up and a long way from the water. Shortly after the ducklings hatch, the female flies down and tries to coax the young to jump from the nest. Once they have left the tree and made their way back to water, the father will return to the family and help to protect the ducklings.
These dazzling ducks join the many other species of birds from around the world that now call Watatunga home, including Reeve’s Pheasant, Eurasian Crane, Himalayan Monal, Capercaillie, and many more.
Not forgetting of course, Great Bustard, a once native species in the UK which was last seen in Norfolk in 1832 until reintroduction programmes began in recent years. There are now believed to be over a hundred wild birds in the UK thanks to partners such as The Great Bustard Group who have reintroduced them successfully onto Salisbury Plain. Great Bustard are Europe’s heaviest flying bird, with males weighing in excess of 20kg.
Nesting on the ground, the female lays between one and three eggs, and the breeding season is currently in full swing. One male bustard here at Watatunga, Dave, has been performing his mating display regularly over past few weeks, much to the delight of our guests.