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Florida ducks are just ducky

Backyard Safari

Monday, February 01, 2010

Media contact: Jessica Basham

Ducks may not be waddling around in your backyard, but you can usually find many swimming and quacking in local ponds.

What makes a duck so likeable?  Maybe it's their waddle or quack.  Whatever makes them so likable, people young and old enjoy watching them.

Ducks are a type of bird called waterfowl.  That's because they live on lakes, marshes, rivers, streams and other watery areas.  They are closely related to geese and swans.  There are many kinds of ducks in Florida.  A unique species found in the Florida peninsula is the mottled duck, often called the Florida duck.  It spends its entire life in Florida.  Male and female mottled ducks are very similar in color.  They are brown all over, but their head is a lighter color than their body.  They also have an orange bill and feet.

Ducks eat by dabbling or diving.  Mottled ducks and other dabbling ducks use their bills to skim the surface of the water or just below it looking for food.  When you see a duck with its tail feathers sticking out of the water, it is trying to reach something tasty in deeper water, like insects or aquatic plants.

Other ducks dive for their food.  Many of these divers are sea ducks and live at the ocean.  Diving ducks like to eat plants, small fish, insects, snails, clams and small crayfish.

Webbed feet help ducks swim, but on land their wide feet and position of their legs make them waddle from side to side.

Did you know ducks have waterproof feathers? A gland produces oil, which they spread by preening themselves with their bill.  When you see them turning their neck around to "scratch," they may actually be spreading the oils.

Newborn ducks - ducklings - look like yellow and black balls of fuzz.  They learn to fly when they are only 8 weeks old!  Dabblers can shoot straight up off the water into the sky, but divers must run on top of the water's surface to gain enough speed to take flight - just like an airplane.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discourages people from feeding ducks because feeding can lead to overcrowding, disease and nuisance problems in urban areas.

Activity: Ask your mom or dad to take you to a local pond and identify the types of ducks you see.  That's a good way to take part in the Get Outdoors Florida! movement - www.GetOutdoorsFlorida.com.  See if you can find a Florida mottled duck, and be sure to mark it in your Wings Over Florida checklist available at MyFWC.com/Viewing.

The Ducks Unlimited Greenwings program also provides fun activities and information about ducks.  Consider joining at www.greenwing.org.



FWC Facts:
Seagrass evolved 100 million years ago from land plants that returned to the sea.

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