Duck for cover @ Phimai

Being an ex-pat living in Thailand isn't the bed of roses some people make it out to be. Yes, it's a great country to live in, with a wonderful culture, delicious food and lovely people, but there are things that you just miss from your homeland, things that you just can't do, eat, see or enjoy. Personal examples that I miss dearly include Sticky Toffee Cheesecake, proper sportscars, laying under a duvet watching the snow falling outside the window and ducks!

I like ducks, I have always liked ducks, I'm not sure exactly why but I just do. Maybe it's because of the exquisite beauty of their plumage, maybe it's because of a book that my dear grandmother gave me as a young child, not sure, probably a combination of both but for whatever reason, I just like ducks.

I think that most of us grew up with wild ducks, from the pair of Mallards on the village pond, city lake or local river to the massive flocks that gather for the winter on the estuaries of Britain, Europe and America. But have you realised that there aren't any ducks in Korat? Bang Tulua has no ducks, the rivers have no ducks, there isn't a single duck waddling around or paddling along the moats around Yamo, and you never see flocks of ducks flying overhead.

And, it's not just Korat, it applies to the whole country, ducks are rare in Thailand! Why this is no one seems to know, it isn't through hunting either by humans or natural predators because lots of other equally as edible species are common here. It isn't through restrictions on habitat or diet because there are enough suitable locations for feeding, nesting and roosting, and obviously there is enough food, so why no ducks???

The good news is that it isn't quite a duck-less situation, there is one species which isn't common but it's not that hard to find if you go to the right places - the Lesser Whistling Duck. It's not as pretty as some of the ducks we grew up with, but let's face it, beggers can't be choosers and a plain'ish duck is better than no duck at all. They is also known as the Indian Whistling Duck or Lesser Whistling Teal, and is a species of whistling duck that breeds in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. They are nocturnal feeders and during the day may be found in flocks around lakes and wet paddy fields. They often perch on trees and sometimes build their nest in the hollow of a tree. This brown and long-necked duck has broad wings that are visible in flight and produces a loud two-note wheezy call.

This is a largely resident species distributed widely across lowland wetlands of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The species ranges across India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. They also occur on islands in the region including the Andamans, Nicobars and Maldives.

The best place locally to see them is on the numerous lakes and reservoirs around Phimai district, not the lakes within the city or on the city limits but those slightly further afield and more isolated such as Huai Sakat, Sa Daeng, Lam Chamuak and Huai Bong. The area also contains lots of Little Grebes, which could be confused for ducks at a distance but are not related. Other worthwhile species to look out for in the area include the gorgeous Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Brahminy and Black-shouldered Kites, and if you keep your eyes on the water surface you may even find some Siamese Crocodiles.

I should add that there is actually two other resident duck species, the Comb Duck which is rare resident but probably does not breed, and the White-winged Duck, which it is classed as very rare and endangered, breeding in a few locations on the peninsula and in the north-west of the country. There are also winter duck visitors of which the Northern Pintail and Garganey are relatively common with most other species such as Teal, Wigeon and Tufted Duck being much, much rarer. 

Apart from these rare sightings of other migrant duck species and the two rare residents it's amazing to think that for such a large and diverse country, which contains over 10% of the worlds birds species, that the Lesser Whistling Duck is the only common duck species that calls it it's home. FF

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