THE University of York is truly top flight, according to a quackers new study.

Compiled by three former students, the duck density league table is a lighthearted take on formal university league rankings - and York comes out on top.

The table ruffled feathers when it compared the number of ducks per rood (roughly 1,012 square metres) of water at a random selection of campuses around the country.

Warwick flew in third with 5.7 ducks per rood, behind York (11) in pole position and London's Roehampton University (6.2) in second place.

Huddersfield and Loughborough winged it in as fourth and fifth respectively.

One of the table's founders, Tom Saddington, now a website designer living in Guernsey, warned academics not to duck the issue of wildfowl in favour of the league tables in heavyweight newspapers. He claimed that the greater the number of ducks, the friendlier the university.

The web wizard said: "I think the duck density of a university is equally as useful as any official ranking you might find.

"For me duck density is one measure of the friendliness of a university and not a bad one at that."

A university spokeswoman said: "The University of York invariably does well in academic league tables despite being up against considerably larger institutions.

"We may be small as universities go, but for ducks and geese, we are perfectly formed."

The ducks are among hundreds of wildfowl, including moorhens, coots and Canada geese based at the university, which is famed for its natural habitat.

Not all York students share the website's love of ducks, however, as regular campus complaints focus on the quantity of goose and duck dirt which the feathered residents leave in their wake on footpaths.

The Evening Press reported in 1999 that a goose had been killed at the Heslington campus.

Police and animal welfare officers were called after a group of students saw the dead Greylag goose in the back of a van parked near the physics building.

The goose was examined by a vet and was found to have had its neck broken.

An investigation was launched and a university spokeswoman branded the incident "appalling". She said: "I cannot remember anything like this ever happening before."

To check out the duck density league have a beak - even a gander - at

Updated: 10:09 Thursday, March 24, 2005