by Joan Smedinghoff
January 26, 2018
This duck was spotted diving into Spa Creek in Annapolis, Md., on Jan. 18, 2018. You won’t see it in the summer; these ducks are wintertime visitors to the Chesapeake Bay region. Come spring, they’ll head back to the Midwest and southern Canada to mate and lay eggs.
These ducks are small, but are a big draw to birders. The males have a bright, sky-blue bill and, in an attempt to attract a mate, they put on quite the courtship ritual. A male will swim around a female, slap his chest with his bill, make several calls and run across the water’s surface.
Despite their size, the females lay some of the largest eggs of any duck in the world and they are the largest of all duck species relative to body size. Since the eggs are so large, the ducklings are relatively well-developed when they hatch, and require minimal care from their mothers and none from their fathers.
Their odd habits have given this bird quite the reputation. In A Natural History of the Ducks, John C. Philips says of them, “Its intimate habits, its stupidity, its curious nesting customs and ludicrous courtship performance place it in a niche by itself…. Everything about this bird is interesting to the naturalist, but almost nothing about it is interesting to the sportsman.”
Do you know what duck this is? Find out in our Field Guide!