Staff Reporter OVER the next few days, specialists from the regional Environment ministry are going to free 20 rare white-headed ducks (exyura leucocephala) into the natural wetlands of Albufera near Alcudia in the north of Majorca.

According to the department headed up by Jaume Font, the ducks which are a type of mallard, in danger of extinction in Europe, have been brought from the national park of Doñana in the southern part of the mainland of Spain.

This is not the first operation of its kind as in 1993, 35 ducks of the same breed were similarly released on Majorca.
Although white-headed ducks have nested repeatedly on Albufera over the last few years, it has not been in sufficient numbers to guarantee their ongoing survival. The uncertainty has prompted the ministry to adopt a policy of reintroduction.

To achieve such an operation, it was necessary to collect eggs laid by white-headed ducks on the Tarelo lagoon in Cadiz.
The Balearic government had to obtain special permission for the event from the regional authorities in Andalucia.
The eggs were then incubated artificially in specialist installations in Doñana national park. The chicks were then shipped off to the Wildlife Recuperation department of the Balearics (Cofib).

The species was common on Majorca, and probably in Albufera, until its extinction on the Island in the middle of the 19th century, as a consequence of the draining of many wetlands. The only stable presence of this wildfowl in Western Europe is found in southern Spain.

The regional Environment ministry also explained that the introduction into Europe of the aggressive ruddy duck is threatening the survival of native species.

If a stable breeding population of white-headed ducks is established on Majorca, it will not just be a success in terms of recuperating a species close to extinction but also it will provide help for the European population as a whole to hold its own against the North American immigrant wildfowl.

The ministry also said a campaign will need to be launched to cut down the numbers of the ruddy duck.
Albufera park is a natural haven for migratory birds and the wetlands have attracted bird watchers from all over the world.
It is open to the public every day of the year from 9am to 6pm. Admission is free. Further information from 971-892250.