This issue’s Bay Journeys insert contains an article about the best places to go birding in the Chesapeake region, even in the winter. This combined Chesapeake Challenge/Bay Buddies quiz contains the photos of five ducks that you might see in winter. Can you match the photos with the names and descriptions?
1. Once the winter destination of almost half of this duck’s North American population, the Chesapeake now only attracts 20 percent of these birds because of the decline in the Bay’s grasses, especially wild celery. Those birds that do come have adapted to eat snails, clams, insect larvae and other small invertebrates. They can fly up to 55 miles per hour, making them one of the fastest flying ducks.
2. This is the smallest diving duck in North America, and is also known as a butterball. To protect the flock from its predators — minks, weasels, hawks, falcons and bald eagles — one bird keeps a lookout while the others eat. Unlike most diving ducks, which run across the water before taking off, this bird flies straight up out of the water to take off. Once in the air, it flies high over land and low over water.
3. This is one of the first winter ducks to arrive in the region and one of the last to leave. It is mostly found on the Bay’s Eastern Shore. It eats small food particles contained in water and mud, which the bird filters through bristles in its closed bill. It is attracted to groups of other birds, whose swimming and wading is likely to churn up its food. A lone bird will swim in tight circles, creating an eddy that stirs up food particles.
4. This duck visits fresh and brackish tidal marshes and rivers throughout the region from autumn through spring. It takes off by jumping straight from the water, and can be identified in flight by its long, pointed tail feathers. These birds mostly feed on seeds from Bay grasses and aquatic plants, but will also eat small insects and crustaceans as well as grains and seeds from farms and fields.
5: These birds work together to herd their prey — mostly killifish, menhaden and anchovies — into shallow water, where the flock proceeds to feed on them. The slippery fish are no match for the bird’s serrated bill. In the air, the flock forms a very low, single-file line over the water.
Bufflehead: D & 2
Canvasback: C & 1
Northern Pintail: E & 4
Northern Shoveler: A & 3
Red-breasted Merganser: B & 5