Birds at Living Coasts in Torquay are making a spectacle of themselves this Valentine’s Day. The mating call of the male spectacled eider duck involves a deep, gulping boom and a peculiar throwing back of the head.
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The video at https://www.livingcoasts.org.uk/explore/news/detail/love-a-duck-call-of-the-wild-at-living-coasts captures the comical antics of males as they try to impress the females at Torquay’s coastal zoo.
Living Coasts is home to eight spectacled eiders: Cruella, Delilah, Squishy, Mildred and Daphne are the girls; Dave, Malcolm and Sharpie are the boys. Seven of the eight were hatched on site.
There have been spectacled eiders at Living Coasts since it opened in 2003. Head keeper Lois Rowell said: “At first they lived in what is now the otter enclosure. They used to be quite shy up there. We decided to move them to the penguin enclosure a few years ago and they settled in very happily. They love to sit on the penguin deck; they spend a large part of the day there just chilling out among the visitors.”
The birds start to colour up in January as the mating season begins and males start wooing females with their peculiar calls.
The spectacled eider (Somateria fischeri) is a large sea duck that breeds on the coasts of Alaska and Siberia. The male has large circular white eye patches which give the species its name. The female is a rich brown with paler goggles. Its remote habitat and bizarre, ghostly appearance contribute to an aura of mystery.