The Waterfowl Identification ProjectNichole FieldsProfessor Robert SwatskiBiology 130November 16, 2012 (Fields, 2012)
Project Overview:My project consisted of studying threedifferent species of waterfowl over a course ofseveral weeks. These species included theCanada Goose, the Mallard, and a Mallardhybrid. All of my research was done at a lakelocated in the city of York. The lake is locatedon a sort of man made island but is surroundedby buildings, noise, pollution, and people.However, all three species seem to thrive inthis habitat with plenty of shelter to offered tothem among trees, and an abundant naturalfood supply, as well as, whatever scrapshumans throw to them. While there I studiedeach of the species behavior, habitat, andinteraction with the urban environment. Icombined and compared this information withsome thorough research. (Fields, 2012)
The Canada Goose (Fields, 2012) Branta canadensisA familiar and widespread goose that has a black head and neck with awhite chinstrap. The chest is cream in color and its back is brown (“CanadaGoose,” 1). The Canada Goose is a common breeder from interior Canadaand Alaska south through most of the U.S., nesting near wetlands of manysorts, even in urban settings (Brinkley, 58). It winters on farmland, inwetlands, and even on golf courses (Brinkley, 58).
Behavior: Canada Geese feed by dabbling in the water or grazing in fields and large lawns (“Canada Goose,” 1). They areoften seen in flight moving in pairs or flocks. The flocks often assume a “V” formation (“Canada Goose,” 1).Habitat: Just about anywhere near lakes, rivers, ponds, or other small or large bodies of water, and in yards, park lawns,and farm fields (“Canada Goose,” 1).Breeding: Canada Geese mate for life, and pairs remain together throughout the year (“Canada Goose,” 1). They mate“assortatively,” meaning larger birds choose larger mates, and smaller ones choose smaller mates (“Canada Goose,” 1).The male is usually larger than the female, and most Canada Geese do not mate until they are four years of age (“CanadaGoose,” 1). (Fields, 2012)
Both sexes have a white-bordered, blue“speculum” patch in the wing (“Mallard,” 1).Behavior: Mallards are “dabbling ducks,”meaning they feed in the water by tippingforward and grazing on underwater plants(“Mallard,” 1). They almost never dive, andare very tame ducks especially in city ponds,and often when grouped together with otherspecies of dabbling ducks (“Mallard,” 1).Habitat: Mallards can live in almost anywetland habitat, natural or artificial(“Mallard,” 1).Breeding: Mallard pairs are generallymonogamous, but paired males pursuefemales other than their mates (“Mallard,” The Mallard1). The pairing takes place in the fall, but Anus platyrhynchoscourtship can be seen all winter (“Mallard,”1). Only the female incubates the eggs andtakes care of the young (“Mallard,” 1). (Fields, 2012)
The male, or drake, is more distinctivelycolored in the mallards (“Mallard Duck,” 1).The male Mallard has a dark, iridescent-greenhead and a bright yellow bill (“Mallard,” 1).The gray body is located between a brownbreast and a black rear (“Mallard,” 1). Themales are territorial during much of theincubation period, but later on leave the nestand join a flock of other males (“MallardDuck,” 1). (blmiers2, 2012)
Females and juveniles are mottled brown with orange and brown bills (“Mallards,” 1). When making a nest, the female forms a shallow depression or bowl in moist ground, and pulls any vegetation that she can reach toward her while sitting on the nest (“Mallard,” 1). Females normally lay about a dozen eggs, and the incubation period lasts about a month (“Mallard Duck,” 1). After incubation begins, the female plucks the feathers from her breast to line the nest and cover her eggs (“Mallard,” 1).(Haslam, 2007)
Mallards like other ducks, shed all theirflight feathers at the end of the breedingseason and are flightless for 3-4 weeks(“Mallard,” 1). They are secretive duringthis vulnerable time, and their bodyfeathers molt into a concealing “eclipse”plumage that can make them hard toidentify (“Mallards,” 1). (Fields, 2012)
Waterfowl crossbreed more than any other family of birds (Cross, 1). Scientist haveThe Mallard Hybrid….. recorded more than 400 hybrid combinations among waterfowl species. Mallards crossbreed with nearly 50 other species (Cross, 1). Nearly 20 percent of waterfowl hybrid offspring are capable of reproducing (Cross, 1). In general, hybridization is rare because each waterfowl species has unique characteristics that serves as barriers to interspecies mating (Cross, 1). These characteristics include distinct physical attributes, behaviors, life-history requirements, and an unique ecological niche the species occupies (Cross, 1). But breeding grounds and territories of many waterfowl species overlap presenting opportunities for interspecies to mate (Cross, 1). (Fields, 2012)
Hybridization can potentially lead to the extinction of species (Cross, 1). A process known as introgressivegene flow occurs when individuals of two species mate and produce offspring, which then mate with thesensitive parent species, and essentially contaminate the pure genes of that species (Cross, 1). Mallards arehighly aggressive breeders, and several cases involving mallard hybridization with closely related species(Cross, 1). Mallards are highly aggressive breeders, and there are several cases involving mallardhybridization with closely related species present waterfowl biologists with conservation challenges (Cross,1). (Fields, 2012)
Many waterfowl hybrids may be unable to attract a mate because they are not recognized by individuals of either parent species as their own kind (Cross, 1). Hybrids often exhibit intermediate physical characteristics and behaviors that render them unable to attract a mate (Cross, 1). Male hybrids in particular, may not have the ability to perform courtship rituals necessary to establish and maintain pair bonds (Cross, 1).(Fields, 2012)
Works Cited:Brinkley, Edward. Field Guide to Birds of North America. National Wildlife Federation. New York: Sterling, 2007. Print.“Canada Goose.” All About Birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. n.d. Web. 5 Oct.2012. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Canada_Goose/lifehistory.“Canada Goose Branta Canadensis.” National Geographic Society. n.d. Web.5 Oct.2012. <http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/canada-goose/>....Cross, Jennifer. “Waterfowl Hybrids.” Ducks Unlimited. n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2012. http://www.ducks.org/conservation/waterfowl-biology/waterfowl-hybrids.“Mallard.” All About Birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2012. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard/id.“Mallard Duck Anus platyrhynchos.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society. n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2012. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/mallard-duck/.