Quiz about The Ruddy Duck in Britain
Quiz about The Ruddy Duck in Britain

The Ruddy Duck in Britain Trivia Quiz


By the late twentieth century the ruddy duck had become an attractive addition to British avifauna. In 2005 government agencies announced plans to eradicate them from the UK. Find out more about this duck and why this action was deemed necessary.

A multiple-choice quiz by Mutchisman. Estimated time: 5 mins.
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Author
Mutchisman
Time
5 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
298,835
Updated
Jul 23 22
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Tough
Avg Score
5 / 10
Plays
715
Awards
Top 35% Quiz
This quiz has 2 formats: you can play it as a or as shown below.
Scroll down to the bottom for the answer key.
1. The ruddy duck was not native to the British Isles but was an introduced species.
In which of these regions is the ruddy duck an indigenous species?
Hint

Asia
Australia
North America
Africa

2. The ruddy duck is a diving duck belonging to which family? Hint

Pochard
Sawbill
Stifftail
Goldeneye

3. Which colour is the bill of the male ruddy duck? Hint

Red
Black
Yellow
Blue

4. Ruddy ducks first began breeding in Britain during the 1940/50s. These ducks were almost certainly escapees from the Slimbridge bird reserve in Gloucestershire.
Which famous naturalist developed this site on the River Severn estuary?
Hint

Sir David Attenborough
Bill Oddie
Sir Charles Darwin
Sir Peter Scott

5. The ruddy duck was not alone in being an introduced species of waterfowl.
Which of these ducks was also accidentally introduced into Britain?
Hint

Garganey
Mandarin
Pintail
Shoveler

6. Why was it thought necessary to destroy all of the ruddy ducks in Britain? Hint

Ruddy ducks were destroying native fish stocks
Ruddy ducks were interbreeding with rare Spanish ducks
Ruddy ducks were having detrimental effects on native duck species
Ruddy ducks were suspected of carrying avian bird flu

7. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is the biggest and one of the most vociferous of Britain's conservation bodies.
Which of these phrases described the official position of the RSPB over the culling of the ruddy duck?
Hint

Strong opposition
Reluctant approval
Complete indifference
Enthusiastic support

8. There had been a precedent for the eradication of a non-native species in Britain. Which one of these species is now no longer found living wild in the British countryside? Hint

Mink
Grey squirrel
Coypu
Signal crayfish

9. Which of these was the main method employed in eradicating the ruddy duck? Hint

Poisoning
Shooting
Capture and humane disposal
Capture and return to place of origin

10. A minor inconvenience caused by the eradication programme was that one bird organisation had to change its logo from the ruddy duck to the grey heron.
Which of these organisations was forced to make the change?
Hint

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
West Midlands Bird Club
British Trust for Ornithology
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust


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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. The ruddy duck was not native to the British Isles but was an introduced species. In which of these regions is the ruddy duck an indigenous species?

Answer: North America

The ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is to be found in many parts of North America. There is a stable population of around 500,000 pairs.
Until its introduction into the UK there had been no naturally occurring records of it anywhere in Europe. The fact that it was an introduced species in Britain lay at the heart of this problem.
2. The ruddy duck is a diving duck belonging to which family?

Answer: Stifftail

Stifftails are part of the Oxyurinae subfamily of ducks. Their name derives from the noticeable cocked angle of their tails when swimming on the surface. This grouping contains around five species (there is some taxonomic dispute over the status of some species/sub-species) of which the ruddy duck is probably the most numerous. Other members of the family include the blue-billed duck (Oxyura australis) found only in Australia; the white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) found in parts of Africa and southern Europe; the maccoa duck (Oxyura maccoa) found in southern Africa and the Argentine Blue-bill (Oxyura vittata) found in South America.
Sawbills are another family of diving ducks. Members of this family found in Britain include the smew (Mergellus albellus), the goosander (Mergus meganser) and the red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator).
The goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) is another diving duck found in Britain. The closely related Barrow's goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) is found mostly in Iceland.
Many thousands of pochard (Aythya ferina) over-winter in Britain. They are often to be found in the company of the closely related tufted duck (Aythya fuligula).
3. Which colour is the bill of the male ruddy duck?

Answer: Blue

The male ruddy duck has a bright chestnut body, black crown and white cheeks. At all times the male ruddy duck has a blue bill but this is most noticeable during the breeding season. The female is mostly brown with a dark brown bill.
4. Ruddy ducks first began breeding in Britain during the 1940/50s. These ducks were almost certainly escapees from the Slimbridge bird reserve in Gloucestershire. Which famous naturalist developed this site on the River Severn estuary?

Answer: Sir Peter Scott

Sir Peter Scott (1909 - 1989) always acknowledged his role in accidentally introducing the ruddy duck into Britain. For several years they were regarded as a harmless and attractive addition to British wildlife. It was not until the 1980s that a specific problem began to appear.
Sir Richard Attenborough is a marvellous presenter of television natural history programmes.
Former funny man with "The Goodies", Bill Oddie now devotes much of his time to conservation and to presenting wildlife shows.
Sir Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882) is best remembered for writing "On the Origin of Species".
5. The ruddy duck was not alone in being an introduced species of waterfowl. Which of these ducks was also accidentally introduced into Britain?

Answer: Mandarin

The mandarin (Aix galericulata) came originally from eastern Asia. The male is an extremely exotic looking bird indeed and is much prized by wildfowl fanciers. Inevitably escapes have occured and colonies of feral mandarins can be found in several parts of southern England. There are no plans to eradicate this duck from Britain.
The garganey (Anas querquedula), the shoveler (Anas clypeata) and the pintail (Anas acuta) are all dabbling ducks which occur naturally in Britain.
6. Why was it thought necessary to destroy all of the ruddy ducks in Britain?

Answer: Ruddy ducks were interbreeding with rare Spanish ducks

The Spanish white-tailed duck is a rare species which at one time was thought to number only a handful of pairs. Thanks to a successful protection and conservation programme numbers have risen to several hundred pairs although it is still regarded as a vulnerable species.
In North America the ruddy duck is a migratory species so it was only a matter of time before the British population started to widen its range. It fairly quickly began to be seen in several European countries including Spain.
The ruddy duck and the white-headed duck are both stifftails and closely related and it was found that the two species were interbreeding. This was actually threatening the existence of the white-headed duck and so measures were sought to protect its status.
7. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is the biggest and one of the most vociferous of Britain's conservation bodies. Which of these phrases described the official position of the RSPB over the culling of the ruddy duck?

Answer: Reluctant approval

This issue proved highly controversial for the RSPB and indeed for all interested parties.
The RSPB took the view that the white-headed duck was certainly in need of protection and that action needed to be taken to preserve its status.

"While it is sad that such measures are necessary, we are pleased that the Commission recognises the serious threat posed to the white-headed duck through hybridisation with ruddy ducks." (Official RSPB statement)

If the ruddy duck had colonised Britain naturally (as other species have done) it is unlikely the RSPB would have approved this measure but the ruddy duck was seen as an artificially introduced species. As such it was deemed to have no right to be in Britain (and Europe). As the RSPB's main aim is to protect birds not shoot them it reluctantly agreed to this policy. Many members were unhappy with this decision and some were reported to have resigned their membership.
8. There had been a precedent for the eradication of a non-native species in Britain. Which one of these species is now no longer found living wild in the British countryside?

Answer: Coypu

The coypu (Myocastor coypus) is a large species of rodent native to South America. It was bred for its fur (nutria) in Britain during the twentieth century. Accidental escapes and deliberate releases from these farms led to a large feral population being established in East Anglia. The coypu did considerable damage to river banks, reed beds etc and the decision was taken to eradicate them. An extensive programme of trapping was established and by the late 1980s the coypu was said to be extinct in Britain.
This was probably only possible because the coypu's requirements meant that it was restricted to a relatively small area within eastern England - unlike the mink which has spread far and wide in Britain.
The mink is not native to Britain but was also farmed for its fur. The escapes and releases from these farms have spread to most areas and have had a large impact on native wildlife. The disastrous reduction in water vole numbers has largely been blamed on predation by mink. It is unlikely that mink could ever be successfully eradicated from Britain.
Grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are originally from North America but were introduced deliberately in the nineteenth century. This has had devastating consequences for the native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) which is now virtually absent from England and Wales but which clings on in parts of Scotland.
This pattern is repeated with the introduction of the American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) which has now taken up residence in most waterways in England. The native white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) can only be found in a very few remote streams.
9. Which of these was the main method employed in eradicating the ruddy duck?

Answer: Shooting

The British government agency DEFRA recommended that shooting was the only effective method of killing large numbers of ruddy ducks. It was estimated that there were around 4,400* individual ruddy ducks in Britain. A team of marksmen were employed to shoot ruddy ducks. They began this task in the September of 2005. The plan hit problems when several of the hunters refused to shoot birds sitting on nests as they deemed it unsporting. Some landowners who objected to the plan also refused the marksmen permission to shoot on their land.
Despite these difficulties however the plans were implemented and by the end of 2007 the number of birds shot stood at 3,691*.

*Figures from DEFRA website: http://www.nonnativespecies.org/Ruddy_Duck/documents/3rd%20Ruddy%20Duck%20Eradication%20Programme%20bulletin.pdf
10. A minor inconvenience caused by the eradication programme was that one bird organisation had to change its logo from the ruddy duck to the grey heron. Which of these organisations was forced to make the change?

Answer: West Midlands Bird Club

The ruddy duck was found in greatest numbers in central England and the West Midlands Bird Club embraced it fondly; so much so that the duck had long been the emblem of the club. Following the announcement of the eradication programme the club very reluctantly decided that a soon to be extinct British species would not really give out the right signals. After consulting the membership it was decided that the new logo would be the grey heron (Ardea cinerea).
The emblem of the RSPB is the avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta).
The symbol of the BTO is the gannet (Morus bassanus) and the logo of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is two flying swans (unspecified species).

I always enjoyed seeing ruddy ducks, they seemed so dapper with their tails at that jaunty angle and their bright blue bills. I also preferred them as a symbol of my local bird club rather the rather haughty heron which has replaced them. Although I understood the reasons behind the policy I was certainly saddened when the news came through that they were to be eliminated.

Much of this information came from the official RSPB website; http://www.rspb.org.uk/
Source: Author Mutchisman

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