Bird Lady Blog

November 19, 2009

Waterfowl

Filed under: Munds Park Birding — Munds Park Birding @ 3:21 am

It’s been a beautiful fall with fresh, crisp scents in the air and leaves and pine needles dropping from the blue sky as the season changes.  With the cooler temperatures, many of our favorite birds have long gone south.  But what about the water fowl?  The last time I was in Munds Park was a gorgeous Saturday in late October, and on Lake Odell were three species I’ll write about today.

The American Coot is very common across North America and is a regular at Lake Odell and the ponds at Pinewood County Club golf course.  The American Coot is not a duck, but often is mistaken for one.  It is actually part of the rail family.  The American Coot has a stocky black body with short wings and a chicken-like beak that is white but tipped in black.  Its eyes are red.  It paddles around, dives for food, and has a not-pretty-at-all single syllable call, somewhat like a high-pitched honk.  Unfortunately we only get to see the American Coot above water.  It is really a graceful bird as it dives and propels itself below the surface after food – we just can’t see that part without donning goggles and going underwater.  If the water is open in the winter, the American Coot is a year-round resident.  Otherwise it, too, joins the crowds and migrates south.  If you are with your kids or grandkids at a body of inland marsh or lake in the U.S. and they say “Look at the ducks!” you might want to take a closer look, because there is a good chance you are looking at the American Coot.  And if you are in other parts of the world, there are the Eurasian Coot, White Winged Coot, Giant Coot, Red-Fronted Coot, Red-Knobbed Coot, and a few others.  Find them all with a search of the World Wide Web.

The Mallard is the most common duck in the U.S.  It is a dabbling duck, meaning it feeds primarily at the surface of the water rather than diving.  Our Mallards most likely spend their winters in Mexico.  Mallards are found across the world, and they are the most prevalent duck in New Zealand, where the species is considered invasive. When introduced to areas where it is not native, the Mallards’ breeding will often result in hybridization of local relatives. The Mallard is also the ancestor of our white, domesticated ducks.    We can easily recognize the males with their metallic green heads, and in flight you can see the beautiful blue patch of feathers in the center of their wings.  The females are light brown and mottled and have the same patch of blue wing in flight.  Mallards lay 8-12 eggs and incubate them for four weeks.  Another four weeks later, the ducklings leave the nest, and you can see them swimming around our ponds with their mother hovering nearby.

The Canada Goose (mistakenly called Canadian Goose by some) is a goose of the artic and temperate regions of North America that seems to love golf courses and public parks in Arizona.  Just imagine – these cold-country geese are breeding in the middle of the hot spring in Phoenix and Scottsdale, which is a relatively recent phenomenon.   The first gaggle of Canada Geese I saw was in Boston, and now I see them on the way to work driving up Scottsdale Road past Chaparral Park.  Canada Geese occasionally frequent Munds Park.  There was a pair in late October on Lake Odell, and in early summer I saw them near the tee box on #2.  These geese are considered an expensive nuisance in many parks and golf courses, in part because they arrive in huge flocks and destroy the picnic areas, fairways, and greens as they peck down to the grass roots.  They also deposit anywhere from one to three pounds of “goose poop” in their wake.  You can recognize a Canada Goose by its black head and neck.  The neck has a distinctive white bib.  And if you are lucky enough to be outside during their flight, you may hear their honking and look up to the sky to see a breath-taking V-formation as they in their family units move on to their next roosting place.

I will be posting these articles on my new blog at www.birdladyblog.wordpress.com.  You are welcome to visit the site and add your comments, questions, or sightings to the blog so we birders in Munds Park can have an easier job of communicating.  All the Birds of Munds Park articles will be posted there after first appearing in the one and only and ever-popular Pinewood News.  You can also reach me at margaretdyekman@cox.net.

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