LIFE Project Cover Photo

Oxyura against Oxyura. Eradicate the Ruddy duck to save the endangered White-headed duck from extinction.

Reference: LIFE17 NAT/FR/000542 | Acronym: Life Oxyura



The white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) is a threatened Eurasian species, with a known population size estimated at 25 000 individuals. It is resident in North Africa, breeds and winters in Turkey and can be found in several EU countries over winter. The main threat to this species is genetic introgression by hybridisation with the ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), a species introduced from North America. Since 1997, 14 000 ruddy ducks have been killed in Europe. Approximately 400 remain, of which 55 % are in France and 45 % in the Netherlands, Belgium, UK, and occasionally Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland. In France, 250 to 350 ruddy ducks are also held in captivity, with a risk of escape into the wild. Actions undertaken in France since 1997 have not eradicated the ruddy duck due to insufficient resources and incoming ducks, particularly from the UK. The near-eradication of the UKs population together with control measures implemented in Belgium and the Netherlands now make the eradication of ruddy duck in France a realistic possibility.


The objective of the Life Oxyura project is to eradicate the invasive non-native ruddy duck in the natural environment in France by 2023. This will stop this introduced species interbreeding with the endangered white-headed duck. Thus, it will prevent the exchange of genes between species and the extinction of the native duck species. The project also aims to prevent any new introductions of the ruddy duck by 2020, and to reduce the captive population to zero by 2030 (with the exception of zoos). In addition, the project team will encourage the rapid detection and destruction of ruddy ducks in the EU countries where they occur most commonly, to prevent their further spread to south and south-east Europe and Northern Africa.

The project implements the Birds Directive, under which the white-headed duck is listed. It also contributes to the Habitats Directive, the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, and the Regulation on invasive alien (non-native) species.

Expected results:

  • Establishment of a network of observers covering the main areas where ruddy duck occurs in France (at least 95 % of the population) - its members (e.g. naturalists, site managers) will communicate sightings within 24 hours;
  • New ruddy duck breeding sites identified for culling operations;
  • Improved culling methods implemented regularly (15 operations per winter) on the main ruddy duck wintering site;
  • Increased efficiency of culling operations (by at least 20 % during the breeding season) due to rapid interventions following new reports of ruddy duck and an intensification of control measures, enabling a high proportion of females to be exterminated before they reproduce to achieve a reduction in the wintering population by at least 50 % each year;
  • Modelled population dynamics of ruddy duck to predict the effect of control measures on population trends (so control measures can be adapted if necessary), to define new annual objectives, and to observe trends in wintering bird numbers;
  • For captive ruddy duck, all duck owners will know the new Regulation on invasive alien species and whom to contact to comply with it, while breeders not yet declared will be identified (e.g. by monitoring internet exchanges and analysing breeding registers);
  • All declared duck holdings will comply with the Regulation on invasive alien species by 2019, and the ducks kept will be contained and unable to breed;
  • The general public and wetland users (e.g. naturalists, hunters, fishermen, landowners) in France will be regularly informed and made aware of the issue; and
  • To prevent hybridisation in Europe and North Africa, the sites known to potentially host ruddy ducks in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy and Switzerland will be regularly monitored, and eradication operations promptly implemented with appropriate means and techniques.


    Reference: LIFE17 NAT/FR/000542
    Acronym: Life Oxyura
    Start Date: 01/10/2018
    End Date: 30/12/2023
    Total Budget: 1,674,361 €
    EU Contribution: 1,210,362 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Office Francais de la Biodiversite
    Legal Status: PUBLIC
    Address: 12 Cours Louis Lumiere, 94300, VINCENNES, France
    Contact Person: Adrien TABLEAU

    LIFE Project Map



    • Invasive species


    • monitoring system
    • population dynamics
    • preventive measure


    • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
    • COM(2011) 244 final ?Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020? (03.05.2011)
    • Regulation 1143/2014 - Prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species (22.10.2014)


    • 0 - Non applicable (i.e.species project)


    • Oxyura leucocephala


    Name Type
    Office Francais de la Biodiversite Coordinator
    Société Nationale de Protection de la Nature Participant