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Glamour Duck


Plumed Whistling Duck the Glamour Duck

(Dendrocygna eytoni)

These beautiful ducks are named after their lovely plumes. The distinctive plumes cover the wings which tuck away underneath the plumes. Males and females are equally beautiful and so are difficult to distinguish. Male ducks are generally larger.

These ducks, sometimes called 'grass whistle ducks', are regular visitors here and arrive at first light after a night grazing in fields. They feed on grass seed, thus the 'grass' part of their name. They spend the day resting and preening or often fighting amongst themselves. At last light they leave with their distinctive whistling and fly to their evening feeding ground.

They seem to arrive in groups. At least some of these groups are family groups. Juvenile ducks don't have fully formed plumes and the brown and black stripes running from the wing across the breast to the other wing are not distinctive.

Ducklings

We have had three broods arrive in the last couple of years with two broods this last summer. They must be laying their eggs in the bush nearby as they are tiny when they march up to the house.

The ducklings can arrive under the guidance of usually two adults but the first brood we saw had three adults overseeing about 12 ducklings. They will keep other adults away from the ducklings but seem to ignore other birds, apart from hawks of course.

The ducklings are defenseless at this age but have fantastic camouflage allowing them to hide.

While spending their time on our verandah a hawk appeared, also a regular here. It flew onto the roof just above the ducks. The adults protected the young by huddling the ducklings under their body while the other adult fluffs up with wings extended. Fortunately the hawk left leaving the ducks alone.

As the ducklings grow the plumes begin to develop along with wings. They look like a 'mini' plumed whistling duck without the extended plumes. Very cute.

At one time we observed a group of juvenile ducks, their plumes and stripes more distinct than this 'mini' duck but still developing. They were accompanied by two adults. We presume this group was a family group.

Other adults are discouraged from coming close, to the point of fighting any offending duck. At one point some of the other ducks that arrived early that morning after their night in the fields attacked the adult carers with 12 chicks. It was a frightening display with lots of feathers flying.

Plumed-whistling duck acting aggressively

Social ducks

Plumed whistling ducks will congregate around a water source in numbers. We have have had flocks of 40 but other areas can have hundreds.

These gatherings seem to incorporate groups of ducks which will often fight and squabble like gangs, hissing and chasing the opposing duck. The fights can be frightening to watch with feathers flying but there is usually one that will back off.

Those ducks in the same group are constantly interacting, sometimes preening each other.

Duck Romance

These ducks are considered monogamous however we have seen mating by a single bird with many other individuals. The process is staggering as they mate on water, often pushing the female underwater.

Duck reproduction is evidently somewhat complicated. Check out this link if you what more information on these fascinating birds.

Plumed whistling ducks in flight

Links

Birdlife Australia - Plumed Whistling Ducks

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