The Mottled duck, belonging to genus Anas, is a medium-sized, non-migratory dabbling duck. This species is often confused with the American black duck.
Species: A. fulvigula
The scientific name for Mottled duck is Anas fulvigula.
It has two recognized subspecies –
The length of an adult Mottled duck stands between 43 to 62 centimetres, with a wingspan of 240 to 270 centimetres.
Their average weight is 1.2 kilograms. Both hens and drakes have similar brown colored plumage, with hen carrying lighter shade. In both sexes, the color of the neck and head tend to be a bit lighter compared to its body color shade. Drakes tend to be a little larger than the hens. Another distinguishable feature is drakes’ bright yellow bill compared to hens’ pale orange bill. In some individuals, bills can be lined with black patches near the base and around the edges. Both male and female possess greenish blue speculum (which does not have a white border like the mallards).
In Florida, this species is commonly seen around flooded marshes, wet prairies, ditches and freshwater wetlands. They are occasionally seen in rice fields or flooded fallow fields. The Louisiana and Texas population are generally found in brackish ponds, freshwater lakes and saltwater marshes with dense vegetation nearby.
The Mottled ducks are year-round residents of North America. They inhabit Louisiana, southern Texas, Florida (from Cape Sable to Alachua County). The scattered population are also found in the Mississippi coastal regions, Alabama, the Gulf of Mexico and Vera Cruz, Mexico.
Mottled ducks are strong swimmers. They walk on land with a clumsy swaying motion. They have deep, strong wing beats that result in slow flight. They feed by plucking food from the water surface, or from a little below the surface by submerging its head and tipping its tail up towards the sky. Males are more confrontational when it comes to defending their territory. Defensive behaviour includes biting, chasing and inviting. During breeding season, pursuit flights and extra-pair copulation battles are common. Adults fly away when approached by a predator. Ducklings or moulting adults, who are not able to fly, have a tendency to dive under the water. Breeding hens are very protective of its broods and it emits a loud quack warning if it sees an intruder in its territory.
Breeding pairs are mostly formed in November. Copulation begins in January and goes on till July. Courtship displays include various types of stylized movements, preening behind wing, along with different types of whistles, burping sounds and grunts. Nest, which is a shallow bowl lined with grasses and breast feathers, is made in dense vegetation in a prairie, marsh, agricultural land or canal bank.
Females lay 5 to 13 eggs that of a pale olive color. Incubation, which goes on for 24 to 28 days, is only done by the hen. Juveniles can leave the nest just after hatching if led by their mother. They are also able to feed on their own at the feeding sites. The juveniles can take sustained flight when they are 60 or 70 days old.
Mottled Ducks feed on various types of animal and plant matters that vary by season and region. They primarily consume shoots and seeds of several kinds of grass, smartweed, wild millet, bulrush, widgeon grass, sea purslane and spikerush. In the western part of its range, they feed on cultivated rice. Breeding females and juveniles mostly feed on invertebrates including beetles, midges, dragonflies, amphipods, crayfish and snails.
These species have a relatively short lifespan. In the wild, they live for somewhere between 2 to 5 years. Their yearly mortality rate is 50%.
Their calls are similar to those of a mallard. Males emit a raspy, low ‘raeb’ sound. Two notes signify courtship call, while single call signifies alarm signal. Females make quack sounds when they are alerted, and produce a short ‘gaaggg’ note when looking for a mate.
Eggs, nesting females, juveniles and adults that are going through moulting are vulnerable to predators like Gray fox, Red fox, Raccoons, Ground squirrels, American mink, River otters, Peregrine falcons and Northern harriers among others.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has kept Mottled duck in the ‘Least concern’ category. However, development in urban and suburban areas poses a great threat to its survival.
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