Dapper Ducks Are Courting!

Hooded Merganser Pair/Photo Credit:Deborah Rivel

Waterfowl are busy pairing off and mating, which means ducks are at their most beautiful this time of year. If you haven’t had the chance to see ducks courting, it is definitely worth your while as some of them look stunning and have some pretty interesting behaviors.

Look out for small intimate interactions like allopreening  – where one bird preens his/her mate and which helps keep the pair bond strong.  There is a huge amount of competition among the drakes for hens, so there are also some fairly elaborate displays.  Males are always on high alert and spend a lot of time defending their potential mate and chasing off competitors.  Mallards are known for their head pumping which the pair will do in unison; Common Goldeneye males for head throwing and Red-headed Mergansers for showing off their beautiful crests in a graceful display of what is called a “salute curtsy”. Plus they are shameless and completely out in the open, which makes for great viewing and photo opps!

Some good footage of a mash-up of a variety of waterfowl mating displays are in this Cornell Lab of Ornithology video. Definitely worth viewing!