Archive for the ‘Ducks’ Category

Duck Mating Behavior

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Duck Mating Behavior

When you are watching ducks and other waterfowl this winter, get ready for a lot of action, because it’s also mating season!

red_breasted_mergansers_mating_display
Photo Credit: Stan Tekeila

Waterfowl mating behaviors can be pretty weird – ranging from the slightly unusual to the outrageous. We found a few videos you might enjoy for a little insider info on what you might expect to see.

Cornell Lab or Ornithology has this great video and aticle about how to recognize different courtship displays of some of the more common waterfowl you will see.
Another nice video of Cinnamon Teal displaying from Arkive.

Ducks on Ice

Thursday, January 28th, 2016
Ducks on Ice
Ever wonder why ducks can stay in ice water or on the ice and their feet don’t freeze? There’s a simple scientific mallard_on_ice reason for this. Basically the feet, which are not covered in feathers, have a counter-current heat exchange system between the arteries and veins in their legs which supplies the naked feet with blood which is cool, but just warm enough to keep them from suffering from frostbite.
On the edge?  Yes, but it works for ducks as the temperature of the feet is just a bit higher than the ice, so very little heat is lost from their feet.  Want more info on this?  Check out this article from Ask a Naturalist.

Family Fun: Baby Ducklings Near You

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

FAMILY FUN: Baby Ducklings Near You

Waterfowl chicks are hatching and they are adorable! Most ducks nest on the ground where they might build a

wood_duck_ducklings_fledging
Wood Duck Babies: Stan Tekila

nest out of wet vegetation, or burrow into a clump of grass. Wood ducks are an exception — they nest in natural tree cavities, or in wood duck boxes if no nest cavities are available. Many ducks use their own feathers to line the nest and keep it soft for their eggs.

When the chicks hatch they are covered in downy feathers and are immediately able to leave the nest, following their mama duck wherever she goes. In some species of waterfowl you might see the baby ducks piling on top of their mother’s back! It looks cute, but it also has a purpose. Before their adult feathers come in, baby ducks can get very cold, especially in water. To warm up they will hop a ride on mom’s back!

If Mallards nest in your neighborhood, you might see a mother Mallard shepherding her duckling brood at high mallard_and_ducklingsspeed and completely silently past houses and down the street to get them to the water or a safe haven. She does this so as to not attract any attention at all, which is a difficult thing to do with maybe a dozen tiny babies following you. Mama ducks can get stressed out by the presence of humans, and geese can get aggressive. So keep your distance and enjoy watching spring ducklings!

Cool Spots To Watch Winter Waterfowl

Sunday, January 18th, 2015
hooded_merganser
Hooded Merganser

Waterfowl are in abundance across much of North America in winter. They are looking for mates so are in their prime plumage, making for great sightings. As long as the bodies of water in your area are not completely frozen over, you are likely to find ducks near you!

But there are some places that have a higher incidence of unusual waterfowl or ducks in great numbers.  Take a look at these well-known spots to view waterfowl and see if any are near you.  All are worth a visit.

bosque_del_apache_ducks
Marvin De Jong

The Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in south-central New Mexico is an excellent place to see huge numbers of ducks in winter. The seasonal wetlands provide food and habitat for hundreds of thousands of ducks. You will find the greatest number of birds at the refuge from November through February. Pre-dawn and the early evening provide the best numbers of ducks coming and going from the water to forage and roost. There is an auto-driving loop and many trails to hike for a day of family fun with thousands of ducks of many varieties. Some ducks you may find there include Northern pintails, American wigeons, Canvasbacks and Hooded mergansers.

The White River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas also has vast numbers of wintering waterfowl. The refuge sits along the Mississippi Flyway and holds the largest concentration of wintering mallard ducks. The habitat here is a paradise for overwintering ducks. The beautiful, naturally flooded hardwood forests provide abundant food and habitat for ducks and other waterfowl. Thousands of Snow geese can also be found here in the winter. You may also have excellent views of Gadwalls, Wood ducks and White-fronted geese.

Montauk Point on New York’s Long Island is a great spot to see waterfowl of all types.  This time of year, eiders, scoters, Greater scaup, American black ducks, Bufflehead, mergansers,Common goldeneye, loons and diving ducks of all sorts are readily seen here.  Although not in the extraordinary numbers you might find in some other locations, this far eastern part of NY state is a reliable spot to find waterfowl and often has surprise pelagic visitors due to its position jutting into the Atlantic.  Montauk Point is a great place not far from NYC to find all sorts of waterfowl and practice your ID skills.

Simply knowing where to look in January is a great start to a large year list. Bundle up and look for open water and the beautiful waterfowl on it!

Where To See Birds: California’s Central Valley

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

WHERE TO SEE BIRDS: California’s Central Valley

The Central Valley of California is a great spot for overwintering waterfowl.  It has also been making the

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Snow Geese – Gary Zahm, USFWS

news a lot lately as the drought there has reached epic proportions, and it’s not just farmers who are affected. About 60 percent of the waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway use California’s Central Valley for wintering habitat making this area an extremely important bird habitat — especially for wintering ducks and geese.  Its 13 million acres once contained a rich wetland complex covering 4 million acres.  But with intense agriculture and human development only 205,000 acres of highly managed wetlands remain.

As global climate patterns continue to predict more droughts, the future of wetlands in the Central Valley is uncertain. Agriculture claims about 80 percent of the water use in the region, and as urbanization continues, demand for that water increases. But it’s not all bad news! In recent years rice farmers have worked with conservationists to manage rice fields for birds. It’s a practice called “Bird Friendly Agriculture”, whereby farmers are compensated for providing habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds during critical times of year when the farmers aren’t using their fields for agriculture anyway.

Visit California’s Central Valley in the wintertime to see incredible flocks of  Snow Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Canada Geese,  Mallards, Canvasbacks, Dunlin,  Sandhill Cranes and so much more! We recommend visiting a National Wildlife Refuge, such as Merced National Wildlife Refuge in Merced, California, or Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Willows, California. After you enjoy the show, be sure to support the many organizations that protect wildlife in California’s Central Valley. You can learn more about them by visiting the  Central Valley Joint Venture website.

Lucky Ducks in Winter

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Lucky Ducks In Winter

Ducks sure have it tough. On top of the biting cold mallard_icewinds, ducks spend their winter days floating around in icy water. Keeping warm is no small feat for wintering ducks. While most of us enjoy the warmth of a fire, a duck has little to do but seek shelter and wait out the cold. So, how do they survive?


Duck down is arguably the best insulation in the world. Down feathers are the small, fluffy feathers directly below the tough outer feathers. The down feathers help trap the duck’s body heat and also help keep the bird buoyant enough to float across the water. Ducks spend a generous amount of time preening or grooming their feathers. Preening helps maintain the waterproofing of the outer feathers, which in turn protects the down feathers. Ducks also carry a thick layer of fat that keeps them warm and provides them with energy to keep generating heat.

Keeping their core temperature up is one thing, but how do ducks protect their feet? A duck’s feet are directly exposed to the cold water. Ducks have evolved a heat sharing mechanism in their feet called countercurrent heat exchange. The veins and arteries in a ducks legs wrap around one another. As warm blood from the heart enters the legs, the cold blood leaving the legs is warmed to preserve the core body temperature. Other cold weather species such as penguins have similar mechanisms.

It is not easy being a duck in winter, but they have evolved survival techniques to navigate the cold, icy waters. Wildlife refuges, such as those mentioned above, provide important wintering habitat for ducks to rest and “chill out” until it is time to migrate back north.

 

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