Despite a little hiccup last week, we are very much moving toward spring. With April on the very near horizon, the Easter holiday and some hopeful May flowers, we should be treated to several of our favourite migrating birds and the wonderful time of the year known as the nesting season.
As we await our songbirds, there are also throngs of ducks and waterfowl species making landfall or about to within the coming weeks. With that in mind, we thought it would be fitting to include a quick primer on some general duck classifications here in Ontario as well as a few of the species residing within each of those classifications.
Dabblers (Puddle Ducks)
One of the easier to classify due to their feeding methods, these ducks will often be found tipped upside down underwater. As they root through the mud and weeds below the surface in search of insects and other edibles, onlookers are treated to the view of their hind ends prominently sticking above the surface of the water.
Among dabblers are some of our regions more common duck species including mallards, the northern pintail and several teal species.
Just as the name suggests, these ducks are often found dive-bombing from above when foraging for food. In addition to their aerial assault, these ducks can swim beneath the surface as they dine in insects, plant life and fish.
These ducks do not spend much time topside, as they much prefer to stay in the water and are represented here in our area by the redhead duck and some goldeneye species.
Some of these species’ are cavity nesters and some not, the red headed duck for instance builds a nest in the marsh made of old vegetation, on the grounds and will lead the young away from the nest about the day of the hatch, young feed themselves.
Another notable fact about the red headed duck is that they lay eggs is several different nest of other ducks and or other species. Research suggest that some females may not incubate any of her own eggs, being completely parasitic.
As unique as their name, these small ducks are a treat to behold, particularly the hooded variety. These ducks are denoted by their narrow and serrated bills that they utilize often to dine on fish and other aquatic prey.
Here in Ontario we can spot the red-breasted, common or hooded merganser during the summer months.
Perching ducks are denoted by their prominent talons accenting their webbed feet, allowing them to get a firm and strong grasp on almost anything they attempt to perch upon. These ducks will often be found high in the tree tops searching for the right nesting area, some nesting as high as 24 feet or more off the ground.
Of these types of ducks, the wood duck is perhaps the most prominent. As many of us know, birders and conservationists alike set up hundreds of thousands of wood duck boxes every year to help this species flourish. Each of these boxes are specially designed with the proper material that allows these ducks to climb in and out of the cavity using their talons and strong feet.
We advocate and promote habitat creation for all birds and animal and make available nesting boxes of all shapes and sizes, let us know if we can help you with your habitat creation projects.