Saturday, May 5, 2012

Name that Duck!

Erika says that someone ought to write a field guide to Dabbling Ducks dabbling.  For these birds, if you guessed Blue-winged Teal, you would be correct.  These are prairie-breeding ducks. Populations depend on prairie pothole conditions, with low cycles corresponding with drought and wetland drainage. Blue-winged Teal also suffer very high predation rates--often over 90% of nests fail--by raccoons, fox, and coyotes. Nevertheless, since hitting a 40-year low in 1990, Blue-winged Teal numbers more than doubled (Rohwer et al. 2002).

Although males do not help with incubation or care of the young, in the spring they vigorously defend territories picked by the females. In the summer, males molt earlier than the females, and afterward head south without their mates and, by mid-August, arrive at their Gulf Coast wintering areas. This pair of Blue-winged Teal fed in a small pond near the Old Highway 77 Bridge in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis. I was surprised by the male's iridescent purple head coloration.

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