Posts Tagged ‘Ducks’

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.

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!

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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