Monday, June 18, 2012


All around us are baby ducklings of all sizes and shapes. Even non-birders stop to enjoy the sight of small ducklings being herded by their mom. The variance in size illustrates the berth of time when duck lay their eggs.

Black Ducks may lay 6 to 12 eggs and incubate while Mallards may lay 5 to 14 days and incubate from 25 to 30 days.  As eggs are laid one a day and incubation does not begin until all eggs are laid, there is quite a lot of room for different size ducklings to appear in the ponds and ditches.

It is not easy to differentiate between the female American Black Duck and the female Mallard. There is so much hybridization among ducks that it is difficult to tell if a bird is a Black Duck, a Mallard or a hybrid. I am guessing the female pictured here is a Mallard because of the amount of orange on the beak, only a guess.  If I had paid attention to the sound, I should have been able to identify them on the spot.  The Black Duck says "Quack, Quack" and the Mallard says "Kwek, Kwek, Kwek." That may be the best clue to nail the ID.
With it being so difficult to identify the adult species, it seems totally impossible to identify the species of the ducklings.
Of all of the broods I have seen this year, the numbers are low. Who knows how they meet their demise, but not all baby duckling reach adulthood. I have seen a number of families with only three to five ducklings.  The younger the ducklings, the more there seem to be in the group.
Like all children, the ducklings grow up very fast and soon there will be no sign of the young. I tried to find info about this phenomenon but couldn't - but, even toward the end of the summer an odd family will just appear.  Why the delay? I have no idea, but I have seen late season ducklings. 
I venture a guess that this female is an American Black Duck based on the greenish colored bill and the predominately gray face. Now, all of this begs the question, "How long have I been birding and still can't tell the difference between two of the most common species around?"

Rather than be too hard on myself over this, I have decided to continue to study them and most of all, enjoy the sights and sounds of the fanciful little ducks riding the waves.

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