New Ducks and Swallows

Breeding season is in full swing and we have spotted several mother Mallards with their broods. Mallards lay 12-13 eggs and we are seeing some mothers with 7-9 ducklings in tow. There will be some attrition to predators, including large fish. But the large number of offspring ensures that there will be plenty of new adults by the end of summer.

Here is a mom leading her seven ducklings from a marsh, over a dike and into a pond. The adults fly over but the little guys aren’t ready for that yet.

This is another mom with nine ducklings.

This is also molting time and the males lose that bright green head plumage. They look a lot like the females with the exception of beak color. They take on the more drab coloring of the female since the cannot fly while their primary feathers are being replaced. The brown females can hide better on the nest and the males take a page from their book to hide while molting. The green reappears once the molt over and the males can fly properly again. These are male Mallards in what is called “eclipse plumage”.

Barn Swallows have two broods during the summer. We are right in between the two and I got photos that include offspring from each. This is a fledged Barn Swallow watching an adult bringing in nest material. The fledglings hang around their old nest for a while.

This is the other adult with the second brood. Barn Swallows used to nest in caves but now use human structures.

I managed to catch some in flight. Barn Swallows have a strongly forked tail.

We have been watching the Bank Swallows too. They nest in the sides of dunes and banks on the island so the nests are hidden. No baby pictures, but here are some of the members of a big group at the tip of Plum Island. The distinguishing marks are brown color, a full collar and that little “necktie”.

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