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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Amazing Waterfowl Facts

Incredible information from the world of waterfowl
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RAINING DUCKS

In 1973, hundreds of ducks fell from the sky and rained down on Main Street in Stuttgart, Arkansas, breaking windows and damaging cars. Most were believed to have been killed by hail, but others were covered with ice when they hit the ground, suggesting that uplifting winds had carried the birds to high altitude, where ice accumulted on their bodies and wings.

FEATHER COUNT

Feathers typically make up about one-sixth of a bird's weight. Hummingbirds have the fewest feathers (some species have less than a thousand). Some swans, on the other hand, have more than 25,000 feathers.

GLOBE-TROTTER

Blue-winged teal migrate farther south than any other North American waterfowl. A bluewing banded near Oak Lake, Manitoba, was shot by a hunter near Lima, Peru, more than 4,000 miles to the south.

OLD FRIEND

Biologists with the Michigan Department of Conservation caught the same black duck drake 18 times over a nine-year period. First banded as an adult in 1949, this wily black duck successfully eluded hunters and predators for 10 years. When biologists trapped the duck for the last time in 1958, they replaced its leg band, which had worn thin with age.

SEASONED TRAVELER

A pintail banded in 1940 in Athabasca, Alberta, survived until January 1954 when it was shot near Naucuspana, Mexico, roughly 3,000 miles away. If this pintail migrated between these two locations every year throughout its known lifetime, the bird would have logged nearly 80,000 air miles.

PROLIFIC BREEDERS

While hybridization is very rare in the wild, mallards have been known to crossbreed with some 40 waterfowl species (including, in captivity, such genetically dissimilar species as the graylag goose). The wood duck, known to have crossbred with as many as 20 other duck species, takes second place in the annals of waterfowl promiscuity.

SNEAKY SQUIRRELS

The Franklin's ground squirrel can be an insidious predator of duck eggs. Unlike larger predators, which destroy an entire clutch at once (thereby enabling the hen to renest), these rodents steal eggs one at a time over a period of several days. One study in Manitoba found that ground squirrels destroyed 19 percent of the duck nests in the area.

Compiled by Mike Checkett and Matt Young

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Related:  waterfowl biology

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