April 2010 Bird Photo of the Month

Quack, Quack! Quack, Quack! © Sarah Kappel
Florida Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula)

What a happy looking duck! Yet this duck was loudly warning people and other ducks in the area, that it was going into the water at Viera Wetlands. Sarah Kappel took this photograph with her Canon 7D and a 400 mm lens so that she could be a distance from the birds and not disturb them. Birds at the Wetlands have become acclimated to the frequent human traffic.  They have learned that the people traveling the dikes there pose no immediate threat, so the resident birds save their energy and continue feeding, but keep a watchful eye should someone approach too closely. Should that invisible barrier be crossed, these birds will flee just like any other wild bird.

Quite an unusual photograph, placed well to show habitat but also to see in such clear focus the duck’s tongue and to reveal that birds don’t have any teeth. Their food consists of vegetation, small invertebrates and fish. This Mottled Duck (named for having feathers outlined in lighter buff tones) could be a male or a female, both sexes appear alike, unlike the Mallard duck. The black spot at the gape (corner) of the bill distinguishes the Mottled Duck from the similar Black Duck or Female Mallard.

Mottled ducks live year round in our fresh and saltwater marshes and are one of only a few resident wild duck species in Florida. Only this, the Wood Ducks and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks breed in peninsular Florida. Feral pet Mallard Ducks and stocked private duck hunting preserves have resulted in released ducks hybridizing with the closely related Mottled Ducks. This is such a concern,that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has enacted a law prohibiting the release or feeding of any Mallard Duck.

Juanita Baker,
Coordinator for the PIAS Photo of the Month

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