Crash-landing to birth: story of an ‘Indian’ duck

September 26th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 26 (IANS) Houdini, an Indian Runner duck, was still in his egg when a sea gull scooped him up and threw him from a height of 30 feet. But the lucky bird managed to survive and was happily reunited with his mother and four siblings.Barrie Tolley, a Devon farmer, saw a sea gull swoop down on his duck farm and lift off with a duck’s egg. The bird couldn’t keep a grip and dropped the egg. It plummeted 30 feet to the ground.

Sheer curiosity made Tolley locate the egg. He found it surprisingly intact, with faint cracks on it. Hoping against hope, he put it in an incubator.

Five hours later, the duckling fought its way out and is now 10 days old. Tolley named him Houdini.

Tolley, who runs the Rare Breeds Farm in Totnes, Devon, told the Daily Mail: “Seeing the egg fall from the seagull was terrible, but Houdini is clearly a lucky little thing. Had he been dropped from 10 feet higher or had hit one of the concrete slabs, it would have been a different story.”

Houdini comes from a rare duck species called the Indian Runner. The first record of the Indian Runner’s arrival in Britain dates back to 1830.

Originally named the Penguin Duck as its bearing resembled that of a penguin, it got its second name after being cross-bred with domestic ducks in the 19th century.

A web search locates its description from a book by the Indian Runner Ducks Association: “Its long, narrow head on a thin neck sets on a long apparently attenuated body, having an extraordinarily upright carriage, which last is accounted for by the thighs, legs and shanks being excessively short and placed so far back that the bird is obliged to carry itself erect to enable it to walk or run, which latter it can do with some degree of rapidity.”

It was originally imported from Bombay (now Mumbai). The London zoo received a batch of them in 1985. Some of them were later bred at the Surrey zoo between 1837-38.

Duck enthusiasts thought it was of Indian origin because of its import from that country. However, bird historians have been debating - even coming to blows as records show - on its true origins: whether it came from India or from the Javan islands further east.

The debate is still inconclusive. The sea gull still flies around the Totnes farm. Houdini is still under Tolley’s watchful eyes.

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