Those out walking past the lake at Bourne Park this summer may care to pause and cast a glance out onto the water to see what wild fowl are about. Along with the regular residents, the coots, swans, moorhens, mallard ducks, the odd flock of seagulls and perhaps some of the greylag geese which over-winter here, you may just catch a glimpse of the Tufted Ducks which we have living on the lake. The Tufted Duck is one of Britain’s more common ducks, often seen in large flocks elsewhere, but only a few pairs seem to frequent Bourne Park lake from year to year.
Smaller than the mallard, the male Tufted Duck is black in colour (although its head may appear bluish in sunlight, as in the picture above). It is distinguished by the bright white patch on its flank and of course the tuft which hangs from the back of its head. The female is brown, has no white patch and a smaller tuft. They fall into the classification of diving birds surviving on a diet of crustaceans, snails and other molluscs and insect larvae, all found in the weeds under the water. When calling to each other the ducks’ ‘caw caw caw’ sound is remarkably like that of the rook, but repeated more rapidly.
The Tufted Duck is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act in the UK and is listed as a Species of Conservation Importance under UK legislation. It is also a Species of European Conservation Concern. However, it can be shot between 1st September and 31st January during the so called ‘wildfowling season’. Such is humanity’s strange and contradictory attitude to wildlife conservation.