Sunday, April 11, 2010

For the Birds (We All Suposedly "Know?")

(Pictures: Ducks and Geese sharing tidbits on frozen ice over the winter. A mating pair of ducks at Harlem Meer. Picture taken yesterday. The two swans and three Peking ducks at Harlem Meer. The white ducks showed up last summer and are speculated to be "escapees" from a nearby "live poultry market." -- What we can truthfully call, "lucky ducks!")

One of the frustrating things about wildlife TV programming, as well as books and even Internet information, is that while one can learn about all types of "exotic" species all over the world, from insects, to fish and reptiles to predators to so-called, "vermin," it seems a great deal harder to learn anything at all about the local animals who, in many cases, live in our own back yard.

Case in point: A couple of months ago, I went to Barnes & Noble seeking to pick up a book about ducks and/or other native birds.

I could not find anything of interest or substance. Yes, there were books about different types of ducks and where to find them -- stuff that might be of interest to hunters, but absolutely nothing about the way ducks actually live and survive. I wonder about ducks mating and migratory habits. I wonder about their natural life spans and eating preferences. I even wonder about their personalities. Can or do ducks ever make good pets?

The same could be said of other local birds that we see and take for granted everyday, such as sparrows, pigeons, Canadian geese, robins and even Swans.

A few weeks ago, I attended a very interesting lecture held at the North Meadow Recreation Center in Central Park about coyotes.

The lecture was fascinating with all kinds of slides, pictures and information about the way coyotes, live, survive, mate and raise their young.

But, why not lectures about ducks, sparrows, geese or pigeons?

Is it because these animals are so abundant in our environment that we totally take them for granted and think we know all there is to know about them?

I feel I "know" almost nothing about the birds I actually live with in New York City.

But, I hope I have learned some things simply by observing and taking pictures of Central Park wildlife, particularly the birds, over the past year or so.

I've learned for example, that waterfowl are very different over the harsh months of the winter, than they are in the spring and summer.

During the winter, the geese, seagulls, ducks and swans will seek out those bodies of water that are not yet frozen over and peacefully share what resources there are in order to survive. It is not at all unusual to see ducks, geese, gulls and swans all huddled together on patches of ice, equally sharing surrounding water. It is rare to see any squabbles during the winter. Apparently, the birds need to reserve their energies to try and keep warm, get enough to eat and just survive. (During this past winter, most of the birds huddled on the Reservoir or the duck pond at Harlem Meer. These were the two bodies of water that did not entirely freeze over, as other ponds in Central Park or the lakes did.)

But, come the first days of spring, everything changes!

For one matter, most of the gulls, geese and ducks are gone. One supposes they have taken off for quieter and less crowded places in order to raise their young.

Those ducks and geese who remained however, suddenly took to much more ornery behavior -- pecking, squabbling and sometimes even chasing off a smaller or weaker bird.

I imagine these are the beginnings of the pairing and mating rituals. The same birds who were so peacefully sharing available resources over the winter, were suddenly at each other's beaks and tails! Canadian geese would suddenly chase off ducks. The male swan at Harlem Meer is seemingly hassling everything (especially dogs!) and even the ducks themselves engaged in quite a bit of "hen pecking and feather rustling" behavior.

Now however, matters are once again, more peaceful as most of the remaining ducks and geese have seemingly "paired off" with chosen mates and I wonder now, if and when we might expect to see the offspring of some of these pairings in Central Park?

A friend has suggested that most of the ducks and geese who remained behind from the larger migratory flocks are probably "too old or too young" to breed.

I don't know if that is true. -- Only time will tell.

I just wish there was more information about the animals who actually live with us and who apparently those in the book and TV worlds assume we have no interest in learning about.

Why is that?

For now though, to enjoy observing and photographing the birds, learning what I can about them and posting some of the pictures to

Hopefully, pictures tell a story. -- PCA

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