Thursday, April 15, 2010

Natural Camouflage - Sitting Ducks

Sitting Ducks

These are probably mallards and are one of the more common ducks in our area and are found in most flyways. Every year about this time there is a small flock of about 10 to 12 ducks (there may be a few more but it’s hard to get an accurate count) that appear in the trees in my yard. They usually feed in the early morning hours and this is one of the best times to catch them sitting in the trees. If you’re up at the crack of dawn, you can find them sitting in several different trees in my yard. The drakes generally give their presence away when they are in the trees with a very distinctive sound that is a low-pitched ”kwek-kwek”. They are usually grouped in pairs and their appearance is also very similar.

Many ducks shed their body feathers twice a year. The drakes will lose their bright plumage shortly after mating and will look like the hens for several weeks. Most of these ducks are probably mating pairs. This appearance that makes them look like hens is called their “eclipse” plumage and that creates a type of natural camouflage. The length of time they keep this “eclipse” plumage probably varies quite a bit depending upon the type of duck. This can make them difficult to spot when they’re sitting in a tree!

Ducks in a Tree

Not all ducks are dumb but that still leaves quite a few that aren’t probably that bright. By way of example, how many ducks can you find in the tree pictured above? Hint: there is more than one!

Mrs. RW has been throwing out corn for them and this is probably one of the reasons they keep coming back each year. They may not be the smartest creatures around but they won’t turn down a free meal.

Personally, the verdict is still out in my opinion as to just how smart ducks actually are and is evidenced by the term “sitting ducks” commonly used to describe things that are exposed to dangerous situations. If Brigid had been here, she would have used some bacon camouflage and these ducks would probably be sitting in a pan in the oven instead of my trees.

Got "sitting ducks" in your trees?

Staying above the water line!


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