Zoo welcomes rarest birds

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Two of the rarest birds in the world have swooped in to the Waders and Waddlers Aviary at Blackpool Zoo.

The male and female Scaly-sided mergansers, which are just 10 months old, are a potential breeding pair that will play a vital part in increasing numbers of the endangered species of ducks.

There are less than 2,500 left in the wild and just 27 in zoos and parks across Europe – only 14 in the UK.

Head of Birds at Blackpool Zoo, Johnpaul Houston, said he is delighted to welcome them to the aviary.

Five years ago officials from EAZA (The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) EEP committee (European Endangered Species Programmes) appointed Johnpaul to be the Studbook Keeper for the Scaly-sided mergansers and in 2013 this was upgraded to the ESB European Studbook.

This means he is responsible for the management and breeding programme of the species and he also writes for the East Asia/ Australasia Flyways Partnership website, as part of the scaly-sided merganser task-force.

Their arrival came at an exciting time for Johnpaul as he became a father himself just days before the pair arrived.

Johnpaul has spent his paternity leave dashing between new son Nathaniel and the ducks, which have quickly settled into their new home. He said: “Housing this beautiful species is a real coup for Blackpool Zoo. They are quite difficult to keep and breed, but I am really looking forward to the challenge.

“It is a very exciting time for me, becoming a father and welcoming one of my favourite species to the zoo.

“I am sure visitors will fall in love with them!”

The Scaly-sided Merganser hails from temperate East Asia, breeding in the north and wintering in the south.

They are sea ducks with striking appearance. With a thin red bill and a scaled dark pattern running down each side, both sexes have a crest of wispy elongated feathers on their heads, much like a Chinese dragon.