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Page last updated at 10:22 GMT, Wednesday, 1 September 2010 11:22 UK
Ducks attempt a prison break-in
Ducks outside Bullingdon Prison by Stephen Perry
The ducks lay low ready to make their move on the prison

A family of ducks have been trying to break into Bullingdon Prison.

A visitor to the prison, Stephen Perry, was waiting in his car outside when he saw 11 ducks trying to bypass security to reach a small pond in the grounds.

He was with his wife who is a criminal lawyer and was there visiting a client when she was tailgated by the ducks.

"She obeyed the sign, didn't let them in but a moment later someone else arrived and in came all the ducks again!

"They were the most persistent and friendly ducks I've ever seen."

After observing their peculiar behaviour Mr Perry went up to the reception area and started chatting to the staff and enquiring about all the signs that asked visitors not to let in the ducks.

"Apparently they were brought up in this pond inside the prison grounds and they grew too numerous and so the prison said 'We can't have so many ducks inside the prison.' At least that's what they told me.

"These poor ducks want to go home and they have been decanted to a larger pond - or at least that's how it was explained to me - on the outside of the prison but they hang around waiting, returning, returning and returning as often as they possibly can."

When Mr Perry asked why they didn't just fly back over the walls he was told: "'We've had to actually clip their wings because they've tried doing that.'

"It's quite poignant, it's rather like Beatrix Potter in my mind."

A spokesperson for the RSPB said that when ducks are kept domestically clipping is quite common practice. It involves cutting the bird's primary flight feathers on one side.

This might allow them some limited flight but would not allow them to go very high or a very long distance.

Eventually the feathers grow back as Mallards moult their feathers naturally every year.

Extremely vulnerable

The process must be carried out by someone who knows what they are doing because if the feathers are cut too low then they can bleed which can be very serious for birds.

Penny Little is the founder of Little Foxes Wildlife Rescue Centre and she is very concerned to hear that the ducks might have had their wings clipped. She pointed out that birds have extensive protection in this country.

"I'm not too happy about it to put it mildly. I know it's been treated as a humorous story but there is a welfare consideration here and a fairly serious one."

Bullingdon Prison would not confirm whether they had the duck's wings clipped but did release this statement in response to Mr Perry's observations:

"A number of ducks at HMP Bullingdon have been moved outside the gates of the prison for health and safety reasons."

"That's not very illuminating is it?" said Ms Little. "It's hard to see how ducks could represent a health and safety issue at all. I just can't see how that would be.

"Then in addition we have this claim that the wings have been clipped. This is not very nice... The birds are extremely vulnerable to predators now they can't fly.

"People who are in prison surely deserve the right to enjoy the ducks and see them in their natural environment and I can't imagine why this should not be the case."

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