Waterfowl Mating Habits

By: Jim Newcomb

I find it very interesting that some waterfowl choose mates for life, while others experience the annual ritual of courtship. Geese generally choose mates for life. My research does not show this to be true for ducks. Usually ducks go through the routine of seasonal courtship and the competing with like-kind males of their species for the opportunity of securing a mate. As they do in the entire wild, male and female ducks choose a mate for the sole purpose of reproduction.

I find it really amazing how Mother Nature has conditioned the female to search for the strongest male she can find for the annual courtship and continuation of a duckís life cycle. Geese do not form a bond with a partner until they are at least two years of age, but it will be more likely in their third or fourth year of life to do so. Geese do not nest and lay eggs until their second year of life or later. Male geese play a significant role in raising their young, including vigilance over and defense of females while they are incubating and raising the young. Long-term pair bonding is generally observed among species of waterfowl that have large bodies; live longer because of lower annual mortality, exhibit low annual production (fewer young produced), and have slow-maturing young.

Ducks on the other hand, do not form long-term bonds, rather they form seasonal bonds, and a new bond is formed each season. Ducks bond at their wintering grounds during their first year of life, and those bonds are maintained only through the beginning of nesting. Males do not participate in raising the young, but they will defend the female. Re-pairing is suspected for buffleheads, long-tailed ducks, harlequin ducks and common eiders.

Male Ducks do not participate in raising their young. Seasonal pair bonding is more typical of species with small bodies; species that exhibit higher annual mortality, higher annual productivity and breed in highly productive environments. These characteristics apply to most dabbling ducks and diving ducks, such as mallards, teal, canvasbacks and redheads, to name a few. Seasonal bonding is common among dabblers, divers, and sea ducks.

I think it is important that we learn as much as possible about our respective sports. The more I read and learn about the sport of waterfowl hunting, the more enjoyment I get out of it.

Anybody can grab a gun and go tromping out into the timbers. If they are lucky a greenhead just might come their way. I would rather take a little time in the off season and learn all I can about the sport. You should make an effort to obtain a duck hunting video, youíll see the teamwork and dedication those we admire put into the sport. I recommend the Duck Commanderís videos. You will soon learn there is more to this than pulling a trigger. Remember, whatever game we hunt is a gift from God.

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