Signup to receive emails

Get the latest WWT news delivered direct to your inbox...

11 Aug 2015

Chick blossoms thanks to support from surrogate sibling


A chick and a duckling have become unlikely friends after being reared together at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre.

There was much excitement when a female Ruff wader laid for the first time at Slimbridge but as only one egg was fertile a decision was taken last month to hand-rear the precious egg to give the chick the highest chance of survival.

The Ruff chick hatched and was developing well, but aviculturist Phoebe Young sensed it seemed a bit lonely by its behaviour.

After some thought she took the unusual decision to rear it alongside a black-headed duckling hoping that its surrogate sibling would befriend and support it.

She said: “I specifically chose the black-headed duckling as it is a species which is quiet and calm but shows a lot of initiative. I knew it would be gentle with the Ruff chick and also hopefully give it some ideas so it could grow confidently and independently.

“It was also important that the Ruff socialised with birds as it was being hand-reared so it didn’t become humanised.

Lil_Ruff_2_weeks“It worked out wonderfully and they became the best of friends, it was lovely to find them snuggled together enjoying each other’s company.

“They did look like quite a funny pairing with the ruff being so tall but delicate and the duckling being shorter and much rounder.”

Now the ruff is larger it’s living with another wading bird which is more similar to its own species.

Phoebe said: “We have only had Ruff at Slimbridge for a couple of years and this is the first chick to have hatched so it is very exciting for us.

“We don’t yet know what sex it is, but it is certainly a very lively character and I’m delighted we’ve managed to give it such a good start in life.”

You can see wading birds such as Ruff and Redshank at WWT Slimbridge’s Wader Shore. The exhibit celebrates wading birds and mimics the muddy habitat of the Severn Estuary which is a vital food source for wading species of birds.