Mal's Mallard Ethogram
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Mal's Mallard Ethogram

Course Number: BIOLOGY 100, Spring 2011

College/University: South Carolina Upstate

Word Count: 1810

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THE ETHOGRAM MALLORY HUDSON MONDAY LAB 11:00 LECTURE PARTNERS: LAUREN HILL, HEATHER PRUITT On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this lab. unauthorized I. Introduction Introduction The Mallard or Anas platyrhynchos is a member of the family Anatidae and subfamily Anatinae and is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Mallards are considered dabbling ducks or surface-feeding ducks...

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ETHOGRAM MALLORY THE HUDSON MONDAY LAB 11:00 LECTURE PARTNERS: LAUREN HILL, HEATHER PRUITT On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this lab. unauthorized I. Introduction Introduction The Mallard or Anas platyrhynchos is a member of the family Anatidae and subfamily Anatinae and is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Mallards are considered dabbling ducks or surface-feeding ducks and are prevalent in North America (Sibley 190). During the winter, Mallards usually stay in the lower half of the Mississippi Valley and commonly migrate in early spring from the southern regions to cooler northern regions. Mallards usually go no farther than Alaska during their migration north (Kortright 152). When nesting, Mallards generally choose places that are dry but close to a body of water. Mallards have sometimes even been known to nest in open prairies far away from any water (Kortright 153). Both males and females of the species are beautiful birds, though the males are often considered more attractive. Male Mallards are not hard to distinguish from other birds because of their characteristic green head. Both have ornate feathers, but the males are more colorful than the predominantly brown females. Mallards have smooth, rounded heads with a medium-sized, slightly curved bill (Freethy 76). The feet of Mallards have four toes, three large toes and one small toe on the back of the foot. The three larger toes are both longer and larger widthwise. Each toe has a small, pointed claw at the end. The three large toes are connected by a thin piece of scaly skin to help the ducks swim (Freethy 77). Mallards are vegetarians for the most part, feeding on grasses, pondweeds, acorns and many other forms of plant life. Mallards also feed on insects, small mollusks, and rotting fish in some instances (Kortright 154). Mallards like acorns and some eat them to the point that occasionally a bird takes so many that it is unable to fly (McAtee 720). Mallards are also known to eat large quantities of mosquitoes and are important in controlling mosquito populations across the country (Kortright 156). Mallards are both beautiful and beneficial to humans in multiple ways. II. Methods & Materials Methods This experiment involved observing Mallards and recording their behaviors. Materials used in this experiment were a pair of binoculars, a clipboard and paper, pencils, and a laptop computer equipped with Microsoft Excel. The ducks were observed at Prestwood Lake in Hartsville, SC and at Cleveland Park in Spartanburg, SC. Weather during the observation period was generally warm and sunny. There was a slight overcast some days, but never rain. All observations were made during the afternoon, some time between 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM. The ducks were observed from a distance of ten to twenty feet. The group would decide on an individual duck to watch. Two people observed the duck, one with binoculars and one without, and one person recorded their observations. These observations were either recorded on paper and entered into an Excel spreadsheet later or entered directly into the spreadsheet. If the subject of observation was disturbed by humans, the results were excluded. IIII. Results II. Results The following tables show the observed behaviors in their corresponding categories. The first column states the name of the behavior. The second column includes description of the behavior. The third column includes other specific notes taken about the behavior or insight into the purpose of the behavior. For some behaviors, no additional information was recorded. Aggressive Behavior Behavior Erect Head Confrontation Description The duck raises its head and stiffens its neck; usually watches the intruder. The duck stands and walks toward the intruder to drive it away. Additional Observations This was observed mostly in ducks with young. This was only observed when the intruder was small and not dangerous, ex. bluebird. Interaction/Courtship Behavior Interaction/Courtship Behavior Bowing Description The duck moves its head down, but still above the water, and then back upwards to the original position. Circling The duck swims in circles around a member of the opposite sex. Bill Dip (Courting) The duck dips its bill partially underwater and then raises it to the original position. The duck lowers its head and straightens its neck. Lower Head Pursuit One duck leaves it current position and follows another duck. Raise Head The duck raises its head into an erect position. Two ducks stay in one position near each other in the water or on land. A duck in water shakes its feathers and rises out of the water so its breast is above the water. One swims near or adjacent to another duck. Resting with Others Shake Feathers/Raise Body Swimming with Others Additional Observations This was often an interaction between males and females and was done in response to other courtship behaviors. This was usually observed when a male left a group of females. They followed and circled around him. Male ducks usually did this to female ducks in the courting process. This was usually done by male ducks and resulted in the female ducks moving away. This was usually done by females pursuing males when the males would leave. This was usually observed between two ducks of the opposite sex. This was usually observed in males as part of the courtship process. This usually occurred between ducks of the opposite sex. Foraging Behavior Behavior Foraging on Land Foraging Water Tip-Up Description The in duck pecks and digs around in an area with vegetation. The duck eats plants near the surface of the water. The duck puts its head underwater and turns upside down. The tail is usually visible above the surface of the water. Additional Observations Locomotion Behavior Locomotion Behavior Flying Description The duck flaps its wings until it rises out of the water or off the ground. Surfacing on Land The duck swam toward the shore until it could touch the bottom and walked onto the shore. The duck paddles underwater with its feet to move forward on the surface of the water. The duck puts one foot in front of the other to move across the land. Swimming Walking Additional Observations The ducks usually flew fairly close to the surface of the water (no more than ten feet above). Flying usually happened when the duck felt threatened or wanted to relocate to another area. This was observed less frequently than flying to shore. The ducks usually swam slowly unless threatened. Maintenance Behavior Behavior Bill Dip (Cleaning) Description The duck dips its bill into the water and then proceeds to clean feathers. Tail Feather Dip The duck dips its tail feathers into the water and then shakes them dry. The duck dips its head underwater, raises it above water, and then shakes it briefly. The duck may or may not dip its bill underwater and then preens its flight feathers and the area under its wings. The duck tucks its head under and preens the base of its neck and breast. The duck turns around and preens its tail feathers with its beak. The duck shakes its head from left to right repeatedly for a brief period. After the duck comes onto land, its shakes its feathers beginning with the head and moving toward the tail. The ducks extends its wings and flaps them in a back and forth motion. Head Dip Preening Wings Preening Neck/Underbody Preening Tail Feathers Shaking Head Shaking Feathers Shaking Wings Additional Observations This bill dipping was different from bill dipping in the courting process in that this was a part of the cleaning process. This usually followed the tail feather dip. Parenting Behavior Parenting Behavior Defense Description The mother duck watches potential threats and may move her young away or confront the danger. Imprinting The young follow the mother and imitate the mothers actions as closely as they can. Swimming Additional Observations This was observed twice, once with a goose and once with a bluebird. The mother moved away from the goose and confronted the bluebird. This was observed in a group of seven young ducks. They imitated their mother actions almost exactly. The young ducks follow their mother in the water. They usually formed one or two straight lines behind the mother. Resting Behavior Behavior Bobbing Head Erect Head Floating Lowered Head Moving Head Open Mouth Sitting Standing Description The duck repeatedly moves its head up and down fairly slowly. The duck raises its head and has the neck in an erect position. The duck stays in one position on the surface of the water, usually with its wings tucked in and head tucked in or in a normal upright position. The duck lowers its head and tucks it in. The duck moves its head left to right at a slow or moderate speed, usually to survey its surroundings. The duck briefly opens its mouth partially or completely and then closes it. The duck has its body lowered to the ground with its wings tucked in. The head may be tucked in also. The duck stands on the ground on two feet. Additional Observations This usually occurred when the duck heard a noise or perceived a possible threat. This usually occurred when the duck didnt feel threatened. Stretching Behavior Stretching Behavior Neck Stretch Leg Stretch Wing Stretch Description The duck extends its head forward and flattens its neck briefly. The ducks extends one leg fully while balancing on the other leg and then proceeds to stretch the other leg while balancing on the previously-stretched leg. The duck extends its wings fully to each side and then flaps them simultaneously a few times. Additional Observations IIV. Discussion V. Discussion In the brief observation period of this lab, a total of 41 different behaviors were observed. The results of this lab are probably not very thorough due to the small amount of time it was conducted in and the times of observation (all of the observations were during afternoon hours). Because it is spring, mating should have been observed. Courtship behavior was observed, however actual mating wasnt seen during our experiment. Our group was surprised by some of our results. From our past experiences seeing ducks, we expected most of their behavior to be locomotion. We were surprised to find that there were more courtship and maintenance behaviors in ducks than locomotion behaviors. We were also surprised by some of the courtship rituals of the Mallards. Overall, this lab was fun to conduct and I learned a lot of new things about Mallards. V. Literature Cited Literature Freethy, Ron. How Birds Work: A Guide to Bird Biology. Sterling Publishing Co. New York, 1982. Kortright, Francis H. The Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America. The Telegraph Press. Harrisburg, PA, 1967. McAtee, Waldo Lee. Food Habits of the Mallard Ducks of the United States. U.S. Dept. Agr., Tech. Bull, 1918. Sibley, David Allen. National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. Chanticleer Press, Inc. New York, 1961.

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