"Just Desserts"

Canvasback Duck

        The Canvasback Duck is an exciting duck to encounter in southern Utah for they are merely seen as they migrate through on their way north or south. The Canvasback is a cautious bird, always staying in the middle of lakes, bays, and flooded marshes. If they sense danger, they fly off in a second. I well remember the day my honey took me to the Springdale Pond to see the flock of Canvasbacks he found there. "Don’t make any noise or unnecessary movements" he said. We sneaked across the partly open field and just as we were able to peek in thecanvasback duck pond, whooooossh! The whole flock spooked and flew overhead. Living near that Springdale Pond, with its abundance of wild life, was one of the most enjoyable times of our lives.

        The Canvasback is one of the most powerful fliers among ducks, capable of speeds of 120 km per hour. When taking off from the water, Canvasbacks patter along the surface for some distance before becoming airborne. During migration, you will see Canvasbacks flying high in V-shaped flocks. Canvasbacks do not mate for life. Pairs form in late winter or during migration in early spring, and then the female leads her mate to a nest site. After the nest is made and eggs are laid, the males desert their mates (the cads). Without having males to help, the females must pluck down from their bodies as an insulating blanket to cover the eggs when she leaves the nest. The burden of incubating the eggs and rearing the brood falls on the females alone. The males get their just desserts, for when the boys gather on the lakes to moult and lose their feathers, they are unable to fly to escape predators. Male plumage will then change color to look like females (more effective camouflage) until their flight feathers grow back.

        By late summer the Canvasback females and young converge with the males. These gatherings last until early fall, where the young may or may not migrate at the same time with their parents. Migration for Canvasback Ducks is under way now. Look for them on the reservoirs at Enterprise, Ivins, Quail Lake, and Sand Hollow. They can also be found on most every small body of water as well as the sewer lagoons in southern Utah. Good hunting.  The Canvasback Duck drawing is by Carol Davis. For more information on birds call 435 673-0996.


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