A Few of My Favorite Birds (17): What’s Not to Love About Ducks?

Autumn Morning There’s something wild and wonderful about autumn on our lake this morning.Windy Autumn Oak Leaves Relentless winds strip the leaves, and heavy rains drench everything. Duck taking offAll the waterfowl are getting restless…preparing for flights south.  Ducks in fall mistIn the autumn, the mallards leave first, Ducks, Swans, and Geese but then the geese, and finally even the swans will seek refuge elsewhere. Feeding DucksEverybody loves feeding ducks, right? Don’t you? My grand children sure do! Lots of Ducks on RiverWhen I was little, my brother, sister, and I had so much fun feeding the ducks along the Red Cedar River. Duck. WhiteOur favorite duck was a big domestic white duck, which we named Gertrude. My brother Wolle built a duck pond in our backyard and then brought Gertrude home with us one day, but my parents made us take her back to the river. 😦  Ducks on RiverDucks—and all wildlife—are just like people. They’re happiest when they’re free. IMG_0983Today I want to share a little bit about the ducks on our lake. Mallards The most common ducks are known as mallards. Duck in flight Mallards are about 2 feet long and have a 3-foot wingspan. Mallards on beachMales have glossy green heads with a narrow white collar, chestnut-colored breasts, Ducks; mallard and domestic copy buff underparts, and brown backs with bright blue wing patches etched in white. Mallard motherMallard females also have the blue wing patches and are very beautifully colored, Male and Female Mallardsalthough their mottled coloring helps them blend in better. Even the ducks left!All waterfowl need open water, and so—although they can live year aroundFreezing Lake in the Great Lakes region— once our lake freezes over, Return of Ducks. April the mallards leave, usually from late December until early April. Mallards feeding in grass Mallards often come up on grassy areas to feast on seeds, insects, and snails, Mallards feeding along shorlinealthough their primary diet is seeds from sedges, marsh plants, & smartweed,Ducks and Turtle feedngso  they love to live in shallow, marshy areas where the water is about 18″ deep Lots of ducks feedingand they can turn upside down to feed off the bottom, known as “dabbling.” IMG_4245 Also, the “ducktail” hair cut was popular when I was little and refers to the curly Bottoms Up end of the ducks’ tails, which are so prominent when they’re bottoms up! Mallards FeedingWhenever the mood strikes—anytime from March to July—the mother duck will build a bulky nest on the ground out of leaves and grasses, carefully lined with duck down pulled from her own breast! Mother Duck in garden Nests are usually built close to the water’s edge, but we had one pair that insisted on building a nest every year under the juniper bush in our front garden. Mallards on grassNot a good plan, because the coons and foxes all too often had a feast of the eggs. Pair of mallardsThankfully, mallards are prolific breeders. In America, more than 4.5 million are hunted each year, which just nicely keeps the population in balance. Ducks in swampThe females lay 8-12+ light green eggs, and those who are cagey enough Mallard Duckling to outsmart the foxes soon have a nice batch of ducklings! DucklingsWithin hours, the mother leads them to water. Ducks in Disney Resort Pool This mama tried setting sail with her ducklings on a pool at Disney World, which probably wasn’t all bad, because so many of our ducklings Ducklings on shore get eaten within the first few days by our snapping turtles. 😦 Family of MallardsThankfully, it does seem like a nice batch of them do survive each year, IMG_0986and over the summer they grow into big, strapping teenage ducks 2 Male Mallardswho look just like their parents. GB Heron 11.16.12+6Mallards share fishing rights with other shore birds very peaceably, 10.04.12+20 GB Heronand our great blue herons never bother them…although our swans will! Mallards on lakeAnd so, another happy summer passes all too quickly, Duck swimming on lakeand soon it’s autumn again! Mallards on our lake in fallI’m glad the mallards can be free to come and go as they please. Jet Taking OffI wish people could be as free, no matter where they live around the world. I’m reading a book called Escape from North Korea and have been appalled at how Kim family regime has oppressed their people and will not let them leave.Flight of Geese 11.21.12 copyPeople need to be treated with at least as much respect as the birds of the air!Misty Fall Lake Reflections copyEven more awful is the plight of those without spiritual sight and freedom.Birds, migratingI hope that no matter what state your body is in, your spirit is alive and free! Fall Migration“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

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