Recovery noted in Spanish Marbled Duck population


The breeding population of Marbled Duck in Spain is showing signs of recovery, reaching figures not seen for a decade.

In 2021, 105 females accompanied by 759 chicks were recorded during the breeding season, distributed mainly in Andalusia (50.4%) and Valencia (38.1%), in addition to the Balearic Islands and Castilla-La Mancha, which had nine and three breeding females respectively.

The results are encouraging after a period of serious decline in the 2010s, which led to the official declaration of the species as being of critical conservation importance in 2018. In addition, these positive results are even more remarkable considering the scarcity of water in Andalusia's natural wetlands during spring and summer 2021, due to low rainfall.

A total of 105 female Marbled Duck were noted with broods of ducklings across Spain in 2021 (John Nadin).

Some of the work on Marbled Duck has included fitting GPS transmitters, with 112 individuals tagged since in Spain since 2018. The information gathered has made it possible to identify the main causes of mortality, which are predation by wildlife and by feral domestic cats, as well as being shot by hunters.

Further knowledge of the movements between resting and feeding areas, as well as habitat preferences, has been obtained, while the movement of six individuals to North Africa (Algeria and Morocco) was observed.

Captive breeding of Marbled Teal continues to prove a success. The Andalusian and Valencian breeding centres released of a total of 860 birds in 2021 at wetlands across Andalusia, Valencia and Castilla-La Mancha, with further birds provided for a reintroduction scheme on Sicily, Italy.

Work is possible thanks to funding from regional environmental authorities, as well as NGOs. Funding from the EU LIFE programme has provided almost 5 million for the LIFE Cerceta pardilla project, which aims to restore the Marbled Duck population through a variety of means, including the purchase of wetland habitat in critical areas and the restoration and improvement of these habitats, as well as education and awareness campaigns with landowners and hunters, among others.