A Sign of Autumn
Have you seen flocks of ducks in wetlands or flying overhead? Winter is on its way. Daylight time is getting shorter. For ducks and other animals, it’s getting harder to find food. Ice on the water where ducks swim and feed is a threat. In the fall, many ducks are flying night and day to seek warmer weather. Some start flying south in August. October and November are usually the prime migration months.
The right route
Scientists aren’t sure how ducks know the right route to follow. They might be living compasses, using the magnetic pull of the Earth to guide them. They might use the sun and stars or landmarks as guides. In North America, ducks usually follow one of four flyways, or bird “highways,” when flying south in the winter and north in the spring. The routes are called the Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic flyways. They follow waterways. Migrating ducks might: • fly only a few miles or up to as many as 5,000 miles each way. • fly up to 50 miles per hour. • fly a few miles to a couple of hundred miles per day. Some take their time and often stop a few hours to rest and sleep. Wetland rest stops Wetlands are areas where water is very close to or above the surface of land. They are also called swamps and marshes. Plants, animals and insects live in wetlands. Waterfowl depend on them as places to rest, feed and live. National Wildlife Refuges are special areas set aside by the U.S. government to protect wildlife and their habitats, or living areas. Most refuges are established to protect migrating birds.
Ducks help us
Many people eat ducks. Duck hunting is a popular sport. Special farms raise ducks for grocery stores and restaurants. People collect down, or small duck feathers, from duck nests. Ducks use the down for insulation to keep them warm. People, too, use down to keep them warm, in coats and blankets.
Ducks and people
Over time, the number of ducks goes up and down for many reasons. In recent years, many duck species have been increasing because rain and snow have filled their wetlands with water. But some ducks are still in trouble because activities by humans are destroying the wetlands.
Mini Fact: There are about 120 different kinds of ducks.