Waterfowl and Wading Birds
Ducks have played a role in human life for centuries. They are a delight to behold, exhibiting a wide variety of colors, patterns, shapes and sizes. They also have an endearing, humorous nature, their endless vocabulary of whistles, hoots, quacks and wheezes, their ungainly waddling on land and the up-ending dives of some species. Many of America’s favorite fictional characters have been ducks, from Donald to Daffy, and they’ve even found their way into the mascot business. Few can say they haven’t taken the time to go to a local pond and feed the ducks, simply because it made them smile.
Ducks have also had a long standing role in agriculture and commerce. They have long been hunted and domesticated for their feathers, meat and eggs. While hunting practices at one time were uncontrolled and dangerous, driving many species to the brink of extinction, modern hunting groups have been at the forefront of waterfowl conservation, protecting game populations to ensure the future generations can enjoy hunting. The Wood Duck is an excellent example. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Wood Duck’s numbers had dropped dramatically, putting it at risk of extinction. This particular duck has been considered by some to be the most beautiful of the ducks, and a popular hunting quarry for both meat and for its beautiful feathers. It was decided that a limit must be placed on seasonal takes and steps must be taken to protect the ducks’ habitat and provide extra nesting boxes so that the population could strengthen. Through the combined effort of government, law enforcement agencies, land owners and hunting groups the Wood Duck is now once again a common species.
Wading birds include the storks, herons, egrets, bitterns and ibises. They are typically long-legged, long necked birds which hunt in shallow water for fish, frogs and invertebrates. They range in size from the small Green Heron, which is only about the size of a crow, to the Marabou Stork, which is tied with the Andean Condor for the largest wingspan of any bird. The Stork has long been tied to folklore in many countries, ranging from harbingers of luck and deliverers of babies, ferrying of good souls to happier places to being ill omens. They are impressive in flight, with broad, soaring wings and long, graceful necks and their careful, methodical gait through the water as they hunt is both eerie and majestic.
Wading birds are carnivores, eating a wide variety of fish, frogs, shellfish and aquatic bugs. They employ many different feeding tactics, from simply snapping down on their prey with powerful bills, to spearing unsuspecting prey; they have even been observed using a type of “fishing lure”, by dropping a bit of bait or a feather onto the water’s surface in order to draw unsuspecting fish to them. Because of the many different ways they hunt, it is believed that wading birds, Herons especially, are amongst the smartest birds.
The Waterfowl Pond at the Wetland Preserve
The Waterfowl Pond is the Wildlife Center’s newest addition. The 15,000+ square foot aviary is home to over 100 different ducks representing 15 different species that are found in the state of Georgia. Visitors will see Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Redheads, Ruddy Ducks, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teals plus many more species. This makes the Wildlife Center home to the largest collection of native waterfowl in the state of Georgia and one of the largest walk-in aviaries in the region.
Last updated: 5/26/2021