A Sign of Au­tumn

The Record (Troy, NY) - - COMMUNITY -

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.

Wood ducks

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