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Amazing Waterfowl Facts

Incredible information from the world of waterfowl
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AMAZING SIGHT

In the January 1940, legendary U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Johnny Lynch observed on Louisiana's Catahoula Lake one of the largest concentrations of ducks ever surveyed from the air in the United States. Although there were far too many waterfowl to count, he claimed as many as 8 million ducks could have been on the lake at the time.

STRANGE TRIP

When a pale-bellied brant marked with a satellite transponder stopped moving for several days on Canada's Cornwallis Island, British researchers flew there to investigate. They tracked the bird to the home of an Inuit hunter, where they found the brant in the freezer and the transmitter still in place on the bird's back.

FOWL INFIDELITY

Genetic analysis of mallard broods has shown that many clutches include eggs that were fertilized by different drakes. Biologists speculate that hens may actually seek multiple mates to ensure their clutches will be successfully fertilized. This behavior also produces greater genetic variation among broods.

SURF'S UP

Scoters are named for "scoting" (scooting) through breaking waves while feeding offshore.

EARLY BIRDS

A study of breeding mallards conducted by the Canadian Wildlife Service found that ducklings hatched during the first five days of the hatching period accounted for 40 percent of the first-year hens that survived to breed the following spring.

BOTTOM FEEDERS

Harlequin ducks typically nest on snags or in rocky crevices along streams. These remarkable birds feed on invertebrates by diving to the bottom of rushing torrents and walking upstream along the rocky bottom.

TOUGH DELIVERY

Ruddy ducks produce the largest eggs relative to their body size of any duck. A clutch of ruddy duck eggs can weigh more than the hen that laid them.

DARK EDGES

Most waterfowl have black tipped feathers on the leading edges of their wings. These feathers contain the pigment melanin, which imparts a structural rigidity that makes them less subject to wear and abrasion.

FAT CONTENT

Buffleheads are often called "butterballs" by waterfowlers for good reason. Researchers have found that these birds store upwards of four ounces of fat—more than a quarter of their body weight—in preparation for fall migration.

DRAKE RATIO

According to harvest surveys, hunters in many northern states bag an average of two drake mallards for every hen, while hunters in many southern states harvest three or more greenheads for every susie.

LONG DROP

On Christmas Day 1947, nearly 1,000 waterfowl were swept over New York's Niagara Falls and plunged to their death. Unusually strong current and dense fog are believed to have caused this waterfowl disaster.

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Related:  waterfowl biology

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