Without making a peep, from the dense patch of reeds on the north side of Niles Pond appeared Mama Mallard and four little ducklings. As long as I stood perfectly still and didn’t make any rustling noises, Mama didn’t mind my presence. She and the ducklings foraged all along the edge of the pond, until they spotted the males. They quickly skedaddled, making a beeline back to the reeds and just as quietly as they had emerged, back they slipped into the shelter of the cattails.
For over a month our shores have been graced with a pair of Northern Pintails. These beautiful dabbling ducks aren’t extremely rare, but we are at the very northern edge of their winter grounds. And, too, they are a bird listed as in sharpdecline by the North American Breeding Bird Survey.
The little duo are tremendously fun to watch. They are exhibiting very different behaviors, in large part I think because the male and female wing patterns are distinctly different from each other.
The female is super spunky. Her coloration is similar to a female Mallards, which makes her easily camouflaged amongst a mixed flock of ducks. She’s not intimidated by territorial behavior on the part of the Mallards and forages alongside the Mallards and American Black Ducks.
On the other hand, the male’s strikingly beautiful and unmistakable wing pattern sets him apart and at risk amongst the flock. He is elusive and if catches sight of a human, he makes a fast beeline to the opposite side of the pond. When feeding in a group, the Mallards and gulls attack him, easily able to latch onto his long elegant pintail and pull him down underwater (very disturbing to observe).
Papa Pintail’s morning stretches.
The female spends alternating time between foraging with the flock at the shoreline edge and dip dabbling with the male in the shallow water. Northern Pintails eat seeds, water bugs, crustaceans, snails, and grains, feeding in a variety of manners, dabbling, filter feeding, eating from the ground surface, and tipping-up in shallow water.
As much as I was surprised by this sweet glimpse of mama and her ducklings coming around a bend in the marsh, she was as equally surprised to see me, hidden behind a clump of tall grasses. One glance, and mom quickly departed with her nine (!!) newly emerged ducklings.
I was standing so still while filming yesterday morning that I don’t think the female mallard was at first aware of my presence. What a wonderful treat to see she and the ducklings emerge from the reeds growing along the water’s edge. They are amazingly fast and adeptly darted through the water and across the beach, as though they had been born months earlier. I was getting a tremendous cramp and had to stand quickly, which was mama mallard’s cue to chide the ducklings back into the tall grass.