May 26, 2017 - It’s May and duck season seems so far away. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?
To help supplement our longing for gray skies, wet timber and the sound of greenheads descending, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources comes to the rescue.
Its "9 Cool Things You Should Know About Ducks" provides some little known facts about ducks and their behavior that we bet even the most dedicated duck hunters out there may have missed.
Let’s take a quick look at the 9. Away we go:
You Looking at Me?
Like many prey animals, ducks have eyes on the sides of their heads rather than facing forward. This lets them spot threats from any direction very quickly, but each eye always looks at different things.
Despite spending lots of time in icy water, ducks don’t get frostbitten feet in winter. They avoid it in part by having minimal muscles in their feet, which decreases the need for blood supply to that area, but the feet do still need some blood to function.
Some duck species, notably mallards and wood ducks, are very aggressive breeders. This can be upsetting to people if they witness a group of overly-amorous males ganging up on one female, but most of the time she’s fine—male and female ducks’ reproductive systems have been developing surprising twists in a sort of arms race for generations.
While ducks can be very colorful and attractive, they don’t preen out of vanity. Like many birds, ducks have an oil gland near their tail, and they distribute its oil through their feathers using their beak. This oil helps keep discourage parasites and keep feathers waterproof, so ducks reapply it regularly.
Within the duck family, there are three major subgroups. Sea ducks, including mergansers, scoters, goldeneyes, ruddy ducks and buffleheads, tend to live at sea and visit freshwater for the breeding season. The other two groups, dabblers and divers, tend to live in freshwater environments year-round.
When a mother duck is ready to lay her eggs, she lays one a day until the whole clutch is in the nest, and then begins the month-long incubation process. The eggs laid first are not at a disadvantage—they remain completely viable for a few weeks with no care, and the developmental process doesn’t start until triggered by the mother’s body heat.
Many species of ducks, including wood ducks and mergansers, engage in egg dumping, where a female lays her eggs in the nest of another hen of her same species. Often the parasitized hen simply takes on the extra eggs and raises them as her own, sometimes laying a smaller clutch to compensate.
Despite popular traditions, it’s unhealthy for people to feed ducks bread. This carbohydrate-laden handout can lead to malnutrition as ducks become less motivated to pursue the aquatic plants and invertebrates they would normally eat, and can even hamper the growth and development of ducklings.
In 2002, a year-long study from the United Kingdom found ducks to be the funniest animal. Along with modern cultural references like Daffy Duck and Donald Duck, ducks were found to be silly characters in the fictional stories of many cultures, perhaps because of their physical appearance and waddle.
Read the full explanations for each of the nine "cool things", and may duck season hurry up and arrive...