Friday, July 16, 2010

John Blakeman on Wood Ducks

Yesterday's Wood Duck in molt
photo by Murray Head -- 7/14/10

John Blakeman, our Ohio hawk expert, casts light on yesterday's two photos of Wood Ducks


The less than fully resplendent male Wood Duck [shown yesterday] is now in the summer molt. Waterfowl tend to look their worst in the summer months during the molt, especially the males, when many old feathers have been shed and new ones in full splendor don't appear until autumn. The best time to experience the full color of waterfowl is in the cooler months of the year, when they are clothed in their very best, most colorful, and warmest feathered garb.

But ecologically, this works best, as they can stay just a bit cooler, and more importantly present a less showy visage that could attract predators during the summer months. Ducks lose so many feathers during the mid-summer molt that they are for time unable to fly. A less revealing color pattern reduces predation during this period of vulnerability.

Canada geese are particularly famous for this. During their 10 to 15 days of flightless molt, they can be "rounded up" with dogs or nets---or eaten by foxes or coyotes. The summer molt for waterfowl is a time of great flightless vulnerability.

--John Blakeman