For This Vineyard, It's Duck, Duck, Booze : Parallels You've heard about the running of the bulls — how about the running of the birds? Each morning, hundreds of ducks are released to patrol a Cape Town vineyard.
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For This Vineyard, It's Duck, Duck, Booze

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For This Vineyard, It's Duck, Duck, Booze

For This Vineyard, It's Duck, Duck, Booze

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/477037491/477141344" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

A video of a duck parade has been getting some play on social media. It's from Stellenbosch, South Africa, where about 1,000 ducks line up twice a day to march into a vineyard. The ducks are adorable, and as Sarah Birnbaum reports, they also perform an important function.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUCKS QUACKING)

SARAH BIRNBAUM, BYLINE: This is the sound of hundreds of ducks headed straight toward me. At 9:45 in the morning, the Vergenoegd wine estate releases an army of Indian Runner ducks to rid the vineyards of pests. The ducks emerge from the gate and zip around the gleaming white manor house sticking to a gravel path the whole way. They run in formation. Their beaks all point in the same direction. Their bodies all turn at the same time.

DENZIL MATTHYS: I'm Denzil Matthys. I'm the duck caretaker.

BIRNBAUM: Matthys says the previous owner was a bird lover and he had them imported from Asia.

MATTHYS: The Indian runner duck is the best worker in the vineyard. The reason for that is when he stands, OK, he stands upright.

BIRNBAUM: So he can pluck snails from high up on the trunk. He's also skinny so he can fit in between the vines. Matthys says the birds help make the farm more sustainable.

MATTHYS: We try to keep a pesticide-free farm by using the ducks, so the ducks help us not to use poison on the farm.

BIRNBAUM: The winemaker, Marlize Jacobs, says snails are a big problem in these parts.

MARLIZE JACOBS: After winter when the vineyards bud, those buds are nice succulent little green bits of food and the snails absolutely love to eat them. If we don't control them, they will totally destroy the vineyards.

BIRNBAUM: The ducks patrol 140 acres of vineyards for about five hours a day five days a week.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUCKS QUACKING)

BIRNBAUM: I'm watching the Runner ducks now, swarming the fields, pecking between vines and ducking under wire trellises. Jacobs says the ducks have an internal clock.

JACOBS: To come back is the easiest because they know it's feeding time.

BIRNBAUM: She says even though they forage all day, they get hungry and want to go back for their evening meal of corn, which is a fine accompaniment to escargot. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Birnbaum in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

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