Monday, August 10, 2009

Walka Waterworks

Another trip out to the Walka Recreation Reserve at Maitland - hoping to see some of the less common birds closer to shore. One reward was the three Blue-billed Ducks who floated just ten meters from shore.

Along with the Musk Duck, the Bue-billed Duck belongs to a group known as the "stiff-tailed ducks" which tend to have highly varied and elaborate display behaviours. Unfortunately the blue-bills were not displaying, though their tails were raised and not lying flat on the water as they normally do.

An interesting read, if you have access to it through a database, is "Behavior of the Australian Musk Duck and Blue-Billed Duck" by Paul A. Johnsgard, The Auk Vol 83 N1 (Jan 1996) pp 98-110. (Later located a pdf file) The article describes the courtship behaviour in detail, with line drawings and observations on the possible evolutionary reasons for the behaviour.

They are officially listed as 'vulnerable', and the Department of Rec and Tourism usefully provides information on how to avoid shooting them.

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