August 2011 Bird Photo of the Month

Nature’s Camouflage © Susan King
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)

“Now how do I keep my babies all in line when they are all going in different directions???” The straight neck of this adult black-bellied whistling duck while swimming signals her being on alert for danger, not allowing her babies to stray far. She keeps them near the shore vegetation preferring shallow waters, safer from fish predators, also where they can scurry fast and hide with their patterned color on mud banks and vegetation, less vulnerable to above water predators. How cuddly they appear in their full down patterned coat indicating that they are 10-20 days old. They look so eager to venture out into the wide world. Mother seems less sure.

Both parents take turns protecting and leading their baby ducks to food sources. Although initially ducklings are reluctant to put their head under water or dive for food below the surface, they readily eat plants floating on the surface or the seeds of grasses and cereals along the riverbank and in fields, with an occasional snail or insect.

Eventually, through homeschooling, they discover abundant morsels below the surface. Making concentric circles in the water, this swimming family is framed well in their habitat at the West Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility where there is much protection by plant growth to raise families safely. Susan King with her Canon T2i, 55-250mm zoom lens photographed this family in June with back-sunlight giving the family luminescence and mystery.

Juanita Baker
Coordinator of the Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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