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Indian Runner Ducks
© Craig Strachan CC/nc-sa2.0
South Africa is known for producing fine wines. But at the Vergenoegd Vineyard in Stellenbosch, the winery’s grape vines are at great risk from non-native pests called White Dune Snails. Instead of using poisonous bait to kill the snails, though, the vineyard employs Indian Runner Ducks — a specially bred form of domestic duck. Guided by a human herder, the duck battalion can clean the pests out of several acres of vineyard in a day. It costs more to maintain an army of ducks than an arsenal of pesticides, but the vineyard gets high marks for sustainability!
Ducks Help Out in the Vineyard
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
South Africa is well known for producing fine wines. But at the Vergenoegd Vineyard in Stellenbosch, the winery’s grape vines are at great risk from non-native garden pests called White Dune Snails. Instead of using a poisonous snail bait to kill the invasive mollusks, though, the vineyard employs a less toxic strategy: ducks.
Indian Runner Ducks, to be precise. A specially bred form of domestic duck. And Indian Runner Ducks live up to their name. They don’t fly, they don’t waddle — they stand up straight and … run. Picture a slender bird the size of a Mallard, standing tall on bright orange, webbed feet. Now, picture a thousand of them, running en masse into the 150-acre vineyard each morning about 8:00, to spend the day snapping up snails and insects. Guided by a human herder, the duck battalion can clean the pests out of several acres of vineyard in a day.
It costs more to maintain an army of ducks than an arsenal of harmful pesticides, but the vineyard gets high marks for sustainability. It’s a very sound practice, and not an entirely new one. Originally bred in the East Indies, Runner Ducks may have been patrolling gardens in that region for a thousand years.
Today’s show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.
For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Audio from youtube video by Lorrac.
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© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org December 2016 Narrator: Mary McCann
ID# INRUDU-01-2016-12-30 INRUDU-01
http://runnerduck.net/history.php history of the breed; reference to long presence in Indonesia
http://www.booooooom.com/2016/05/31/army-of-1000-ducks-used-as-brilliant... photos and video of ducks on the run
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-safrica-ducks-idUSKCN0YG1LA short Reuters article on vineyard and ducks
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya3Rk0BSmqg - terrific video (there are others on YT, too)