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Friday, February 26, 2016

The Dignified Duck

Northern shovelers seldom squabble or fight. Etiquette and breeding appears to be of utmost importance. For example, they rarely show off their most unique colors - cool baby blues and vibrating greens - which are usually hidden under folded wings. The subtly shaded tans of their primaries are easily overlooked, but seem like the perfect accent  among their varied assortment of colors.

My friend Marcus, pointed out that male shovelers can be easily identified by the sequence of their coloring. From a distance, the major shades of colors on their bodies and heads create a balanced rhythm. It is: 
dark, light, dark, light, dark.

When they feed, shovelers use their specially adapted bill like a sieve. While paddling sedately in circles, they dip their magnificent mandible below the surface, straining out the smallest forms of food. They feed near the top of the water but at the bottom of Earth's pyramid of life. Northern shovelers leave a very small (but damp) ecological footprint.

Obviously, their feeding style results from their genetic inheritance, but I suspect there is more to the story. In my mind, I can almost hear the shoveler sniff in disdain at the manners of a mallard. While feeding - unlike the average waterfowl - shovelers do not flip upside down and wave their keisters in the air.

Their special endowment can make cleaning their necks a bit awkward. 

However, the northern shoveler remains stoic and serious, almost as if challenging us to laugh at his special gift. It is probably best to restrain our comments regarding a "stiff upper lip."

Adult males must be ready to leap into action and mitigate threats, at a moment's notice. 

Single shovelers are often younger and occasionally need to be taught proper manners. When a male shows an interest in your mate or ventures too close...lessons must be learned.

Caution is thrown to the wind...along with a significant mist.

Boundaries must be established...


...and rules enforced.

With the limits clearly defined, decorum and peace return.

Celebratory wing flaps help to relieve the tension. 

Did you notice the perfect posture? Imagine being able to hold your body precisely erect, without touching terra-firma. Your feet furiously paddling while your upper limbs symmetrically circle and search the air for balance. I do not think dignified would describe such an endeavor, for me.

May we all learn to be as restrained and refined as a northern shoveler.

Have a great day on Union Bay... home to The Dignified Duck!

Larry




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