Finally, after months of rain, freezing nights and shorter days, Spring arrived on March 20th. Although some may point out the lack of a serious demarcation between seasons in California, one clear sign that Spring has emerged can be found in the appearance and behavior of birds, especially waterfowl and shorebirds. Our local feathered inhabitants know when it’s Spring and display it by changing from drab grayish color patterns to a more colorful appearance designed to attract the opposite sex. As a photographer, this is always the time of year that I look forward to. Not only are the birds more photogenic but there is also the opportunity to capture the fascinating behavior that only occurs during the breeding season.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, shorebirds such as Avocets and Black-necked Stilts make good subjects as they aren’t too difficult to find and display what I might describe in human terms, as a sweet mating ritual.
In contrast, duck courtship is somewhat more complex, if not more aggressive. A female Mallard duck will incite male attention by flicking her bill from one side of her body to the other. And male Mallard ducks (drakes) seem to vigorously compete with one another to win the attention of a female. Drakes also perform what is referred to as the head-up/tail-up display. The act of copulation typically involves the drake nipping at the hen’s neck feathers while pushing her almost beneath the water.
All of this randy behavior of course results in a number of fertilized eggs which after an incubation period of about 3-4 weeks, will provide the next generation and even more photographic opportunities! Is there anything cuter than a fuzzy duckling?