Friday, February 25, 2011

Pintails Drink Perrier (and Mallards Drink Bud)

[Drake Northern Pintail, "Lake Champlain" in the Villas Thursday, February 25 2011. Click to enlarge.]

It all started at Tuckahoe WMA a couple years ago, one late February when Northern Pintails were staging, as they do at that time of year. Someone had given me a bottle of Perrier (it's certainly not what I drink), and I looked at those handsome pintails and sipped Perrier and thought, "Pintails drink Perrier." Even Richard Crossly might agree, to read his description of the male pintail in his new The Crossley ID Guide: ". . .overall impression is of a bird with a very 'thoughtful' and somewhat dapper look." Couldn't have said it better myself - and I'll have more to say on The Crossley ID Guide in this space in the future.

So Pintails drink Perrier. Mallards favor cheap, working man's beer. American Kestrels drink Sangria, Merlins grain alcohol, Peregrines rocket fuel. Chickadees like Sprite, with Carolina Chickadees favoring the diet kind. It's a fun game to play.

Northern Pintails are early migrating ducks, and stage, sometimes in the 10's of thousands, in southern NJ in late February. This weekend would be a good one to especially check the Mannington Meadows/Oldman's Creek area of Salem County, or Tuckahoe, or Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, for big concentrations. Or you can wander over to Lake Champlain, a neighborhood pond in the Villas, where the lonely wintering female pintail now has plenty of company. . .

[Three drake Northern Pintails courting a single female, Lake Champlain in the Villas, Thursday, February 25 2011. Seeing multiple male ducks pursuing a single female is a common sight because, although the sex ratios are identical at hatching, females experience a substantially higher mortality rate than males. Why? Because females do all the incubating and young tending, and so are more vulnerable to predation. Lake Champlain had about a dozen pintails, plus Hooded Merganser, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, and American Black Duck. Not to mention a first cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull, a topic for a future i.d. tip blog.]

[Making a picture of the wind: 40 mph gusts buffeted this feeding male Northern Pintail. February 14, 2011, Edwin B. Forsythe NWR. Click to enlarge.]

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