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Loch Leven boxes hoped to be perfect nest site for rare Goldeneye ducks


Loch Leven NNR in Kinross-shire is a safe bet to see a range of migratory birds but recently efforts have been made to encourage a rare duck to stick around and breed.

NatureScot Nature Reserve officer Simon Ritchie has been installing nest boxes where the Goldeneye duck – famed for its madcap breeding display – might choose to raise a family.

In his regular blog he explained more: “Winter is the best time to see one of my all-time favourite birds – the Goldeneye.

“This duck winters in good numbers at Loch Leven with an average winter seeing around 500-600 birds. We have had nearly 900 birds at peak.

“Goldeneye are mainly winter visitors to the UK with around 30,000 birds arriving from Scandinavia in the autumn.

“The drakes (males) can be quite easily identified. They have a black head with almost a dark green gloss, a golden/yellow eye (as the name suggests), a black back and the breast and flanks (sides) are a pure white with black streaks. The females have a brown head, yellow eye and a grey body. They are both truly stunning birds.

“It’s quite an experience watching the Goldeneye display. The males court the females by doing this weird courtship display.

“They extend their necks out, then flick themselves right onto their backs. Probably one of the most bizarre displays in the ornithological world.

“These birds mainly breed in NW Europe (Sweden, Finland, Russia) and the Baltic Countries. However, there is a small population of around 200-250 breeding birds in Scotland.

“These birds are mainly constrained to Deeside and Speyside, where there is suitable habitat of trees and lochs/lochans.

“Boxes have been put up in Kinross-shire in the past to encourage breeding Goldeneye, but thus far we have had no luck.

“There is no reason why they shouldn’t be nesting here, so I have decided to re-instate this project and thanks to our wonderful volunteers, we have 11 Goldeneye nest boxes ready to go out.



NatureScot reserve officer Simon Ritchie installs a nest box on a tree at Loch Leven NNR where efforts are being made to encourage the species to stay and breed
NatureScot reserve officer Simon Ritchie installs a nest box on a tree at Loch Leven NNR where efforts are being made to encourage the species to stay and breed

“Goldeneye naturally nest in holes in trees, often these holes are made by woodpeckers. So, we have re-created a natural nest hole. The hole is 100mm in diameter and inside the box we have four inches of fresh sawdust.”

Simon explained that Goldeneye are early nesters and start nesting in March. The sawdust is needed in the box as the female will lay eight-12 eggs and while she incubates them, they can be buried into the sawdust for warmth.

The preparations have been made, Simon can only wait now: “Fingers, toes and arms crossed that we do get our first breeding pair of Goldeneye at Loch Leven this season, I am ever hopeful.”





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