Sunday, 6 July 2014

Ducks Delight

Ducks Delight

Growing up in the metropolis, the ducks and geese and squirrels that are the essential residents of parks hold a special fondness for me. I love feeding ducks and observing these intelligent, trusting species as they frolic with the nature loving people. 

Supposing you are not all that familiar with the species, here’s brief account about Ducks:

Duck is the common name for a large number of species in the Anatidae family of birds, which also includes swans and geese.

They are mostly aquatic birds, smaller than the swans and geese, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water. And this makes them perfect residents of Parks to the delight of many. A male duck is called a drake and the female duck is called a duck.

The duck’s body is elongated and broad, and they are somewhat long-necked, albeit not as long-necked as the geese and swans. 

The bill is usually broad and contains serrated lamellae (it contains rows of tiny plates that line their teeth), to help them filter water out of their beaks without losing food. 

These are particularly well defined in the filter-feeding species. In the case of some fishing species the bill is long and strongly serrated. If you look up close you see that along the edge of the beak there is a comb-like structure called pectin.

This strains the water squirting from the sides of the beak and taps any food. The pectin is also used to preen feathers and to hold slippery food items. 

The scaled legs are strong and well developed, and generally set far back on the body, more so in the highly aquatic species.

The wings are very strong and are generally short and pointed, and the flight of ducks requires fast continuous strokes, demanding strong wing muscles. 

Many species of duck are temporarily flightless while moulting; they seek out a protected habitat with good food supplies during this period. This moult typically precedes migration.

Delightfully the drakes of the northern species often have extravagant plumage, but that is moulted in summer to give a more female-like appearance, the "eclipse" plumage. The plumage of juvenile birds generally resembles that of the female.

Ducks have a have complex structure of capillaries on their feet which help to regulate the blood flow and stops their feet from getting cold.

Because ducks have webbed feet they move in a waddling motion. At the same time this feature allows them to paddle and swim in the water more smoothly. 

When they swim, they push their feet back in a kicking motion so that the webbing catches the water and sweeps it behind the duck. On the return stroke, the webbing on the foot of the duck closes up which allows the duck to have less water resistance and to travel faster.

The sustenance of the ducks is comprised of variety of food sources such as grasses, aquatic plants, fish, insects, worms, small mollusks and small amphibians. 

The diving ducks and sea ducks often forage deep underwater. They are able to submerge more easily, being heavier than their cousin the dabbling duck is. They also have more difficulty taking off for flight.

Dabbling ducks, usually found in parks, feed on the surface of the water of lakes and ponds or on land, or as deep as they can reach by up-ending without completely submerging. A few specialized species such as the mergansers are adapted to catch and swallow large fish.

The others have the characteristic wide flat beak adapted to dredging -type jobs such as pulling up water weed, pulling worms and small mollusks out of mud, searching for insect larvae, and bulk jobs such as dredging out, holding, turning headfirst, and swallowing a squirming frog.

To avoid injury when digging into sediment it has no cere (a waxy structure which covers the base of their bill) but the nostrils come out through hard horn.

Female dabbling ducks often make the classic "quack" sound, but despite widespread misconceptions, most species of duck do not "quack".

In general, ducks make a wide range of calls, ranging from whistles, cooing, yodels and grunts. 

And finally, the ducks are generally monogamous, although these bonds generally last a single year only. Most duck species breed once a year, choosing to do so in the favorable conditions of spring or the wet seasons.

Ducks also tend to make a nest before breeding, and after hatching lead their ducklings to water. Mother ducks are very caring and protective of their young.

Enjoy this Video of Ducks feeding on peanuts: 

Here’s an Old North American Indian Legend, a cautionary tale for you to enjoy:

The Falcon and the Duck

“The wintry winds had already begun to whistle and the waves to rise when the Drake and his mate gathered their half- grown brood together on the shore of their far northern lake.

"Wife," said he, "it is now time to take the children southward, to the Warm Countries which they have never yet seen!"

Very early the next morning they set out on their long journey, forming a great "V" against the sky in their flight. The mother led her flock and the father brought up the rear, keeping a sharp lookout for stragglers.

All day they flew high in the keen air, over wide prairies and great forests of northern pine, until toward evening they saw below them a chain of lakes, glittering like a string of dark-blue stones. 

Swinging round in a half circle, they dropped lower and lower, ready to alight and rest upon the smooth surface of the nearest lake. Suddenly their leader heard a whizzing sound like that of a bullet as it cuts the air, and she quickly gave the warning: "Honk! honk! Danger, danger!" All descended in dizzy spirals, but as the great Falcon swooped toward them with upraised wing, the ducklings scattered wildly hither and thither. The old Drake came last, and it was he who was struck! 

"Honk, honk!" cried all the Ducks in terror, and for a minute the air was full of soft downy feathers like flakes of snow. But the force of the blow was lost upon the well-cushioned body of the Drake, he soon got over his fright and went on his way southward with his family, while the Falcon dropped heavily to the water's edge with a broken wing.

There he stayed and hunted mice as best he could from day to day, sleeping at night in a hollow log to be out of the way of the Fox and the Weasel. All the wit he had was not too much whereby to keep himself alive through the long, hard winter.

Toward spring, however, the Falcon's wing had healed and he could fly a little, though feebly. The sun rose higher and higher in the blue heavens, and the Ducks began to return to their cool northern home. 

Every day a flock or two flew over the lake; but the Falcon dared not charge upon the flocks, much as he wished to do so. He was weak with hunger, and afraid to trust to the strength of the broken wing. 

One fine day a chattering flock of Mallards alighted quite near him, cooling their glossy breasts upon the gently rippling wave. 

"Here, children,” boasted an old Drake, “are the very spot where your father was charged upon last autumn by a cruel Falcon! I can tell you that it took all my skill and quickness in dodging to save my life. Best of all, our fierce enemy dropped to the ground with a broken wing! Doubtless he is long since dead of starvation, or else a Fox or a Mink has made a meal of the wicked creature!"

By these words the Falcon knew his old enemy, and his courage returned. "Nevertheless, I am still here!" he exclaimed, and darted like a flash upon the unsuspecting old Drake, who was resting and telling of his exploit and narrow escape with the greatest pride and satisfaction. 

"Honk! honk! “Screamed all the Ducks and they scattered and whirled upward like the dead leaves in autumn; but the Falcon with sure aim selected the old Drake and gave swift chase. Round and round in dizzy spirals they swung together, till with a quick spurt the Falcon struck the shining, outstretched neck of the other, and snapped it with one powerful blow of his reunited wing.

Do not exult too soon; nor is it wise to tell of your brave deeds within the hearing of your enemy.”

The End

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