Animal IQ

Hundreds Of Ducks Are Employees at a Vineyard

How would you react if you saw a herd of ducks several-hundred strong running in formation through a vineyard? For one vineyard in South Africa, that's a daily occurrence. While that might sound unusual, putting ducks to work actually has quite a long history.

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Perfectly Suited To Pick Pests

At 9:45 every morning at the Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa, a giant herd of ducks is released. About 700-800 Indian Runner ducks are employed at the vineyard, and their job is simple: keep the grapevines free of pests. These ducks are released en masse, running across the vineyard's grounds in formation "like they've worked on the choreography beforehand," as NPR puts it.

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The birds are tall enough to grab slugs and snails from higher on the plants, and they're skinny enough to fit through the vines, making them uniquely qualified for pest control. The ducks get something out of it too, of course—they get to gorge on duck delicacies all day. Luckily for visitors to the vineyard, they can watch the delightful parade of ducks twice a day.

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A Proud History

This is nothing new: Runner ducks have a very long history. According to the Livestock Conservancy, they show up on 2,000-year-old Javan temple carvings, and have been used by rice farmers in China for hundreds of years. "Flocks of ducks, trained to stay in sight of a herder's long bamboo pole with cloth strips attached to one end, were driven out to rice paddies and fields during the day to glean scattered grain, weed seeds, snails, insects, larvae, small reptiles and the like," the organization reports. In fact, that's the very reason they're such perfect farmhands: farmers selected the best foragers to breed, so over time the species became taller, skinnier, and better at running. Thanks, artificial selection!

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Written by Curiosity Staff May 19, 2016