A Mallard, Sort Of

Wednesday, May 8, 2013,

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Here’s a pic of two ducks I saw at Avalon Park and Preserve, just off the Duck Pond. The duck in the background is the ubiquitous Mallard, looking just as he should. However, this guy in the foreground is looking a bit iffy. I suspect some Pekin Duck in his heritage. Pekin Ducks are those all-white ducks that are raised at duck farms right here on Long Island. In fact they are very closely related to true Mallards. Long Island’s Pekin Ducks come from a handful of birds whose ancestors were domesticated Mallards from China. Sheesh, those Mallards sure get around. They’re are just about everywhere north of the equator. That, boys and girls, points to a successful design. Darwin would be proud. JK

Northern Shovelers

December 2, 2012,

One of my responsibilities as photographer for the Four Harbors Audubon Society is coming up with a bird of the month for our website. One of my fellow board members suggested a winter duck so I went to Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket. This park is terrific for waterfowl. The two ponds here attract a wide variety of wintering birds. One can find all kinds of ducks here. For a photographer it can be like shooting fish in a barrel or ducks on a – well, you get my point.

These are pics of a pair of Northern Shovelers. Check out those bills. They’re bigger than the rest of their heads! It’s no wonder that these birds tend to keep their bills pointed down. The real wonder is how they manage to stay upright at all.

My friend Elaine says, “Gotta love that bill!” and my friend Luci once described it as a “wonderful adaptation”. Meanwhile, these are the ducks that had to sit by themselves in the high school cafeteria.

All kidding aside, those bills really are amazing. That over-sized shnozz  is used to sieve edible matter – be it zooplankton, crustaceans, or seeds from the water. This gives these guys a one-up on the other dabbling ducks that visit us, even if they do look like mutant Mallards. JK