Across the continent's breeding grounds, waterfowl take part in timeless spring mating rituals. Ducks participate in acrobatic pairing flights, which are an important step in selecting a mate.
Handfuls of gaudy drakes, cloaked in vivid breeding plumage, jockey for position near sought-after hens.
Male suitors outnumber females by a wide margin, so courtship competition is intense.
Courtship consists of signals by male and female birds – such as calls, posture and feather displays – to indicate the condition of their respective sexual interests. Aggressive behavior among competing males is not uncommon.
While courtship flights appear playful, this is serious business for all involved.
In the never-ending process of natural selection, only the strongest, most experienced male breeders may prevail in winning mates.
The strong bond forged between a paired hen and drake is vital to the hen's nesting success.
The hen will face many hazards on the nesting grounds, where her drake must also vanquish legions of would-be suitors and defend the pair's territory against other pairs.
It will, after all, be the progeny of the most successful pairs that eventually take to the skies, ensuring a bright future for their species.
Once pair bonds have been formed, some males, particularly wood ducks, take an active role in seeking out suitable nest sites.