We are now past the halfway point in the nesting season so you know what that means…ducklings! The team has been finding successful hatches of blue-winged teal, mallard, northern shoveler, sharp-tailed grouse, and willets. We have even seen small killdeer flying around and freshly hatched songbirds curled up in their nests. Although we don’t study killdeer or songbirds, it’s always fun to see successful reproduction in all the species out on the ranches. Here are a few pictures of hatched nests we’ve found!
When we come across any of these youngsters, their mothers become very protective and defensive. They will attempt to distract predators from their young ones by doing something called a “broken-wing” display. This consists of the duck, or bird, acting as if it’s wing is broken to make themselves seem like a better target than their offspring to any potential predators. Some species, such as the marbled godwit, has a different approach. The mother will sometimes fly up and swoop down towards the potential predator when they come too close to the nest. It’s amazing to see the different strategies the mothers use to keep their young protected!
This past week we also had the opportunity to host students from Century High School, Bismarck on the Coteau Ranch. We taught them how we find the nests, what we do after we find a nest, and how our cameras are set up. We even had a nest close by to show them what the eggs look like. Employees from Ducks Unlimited were also at the event to teach the students about wetlands, invertebrates, and plants on the prairie. It was a great experience teaching the students all that we have learned so far.