One of the first waterbirds that children learn to recognize is the mallard duck. Although they seem commonplace, think of how sad our ponds would be without the quacking and graceful gliding of ducks.
Mallard ducks are so adapted to water that newborn ducks can paddle immediately. Despite their love of water though, the ducks tend to build nests quite a distance from the nearest water source. The first pathway to the water can be perilous for young duck families. Whenever the mother duck senses danger, she will create a splashing distraction or feign injury to draw the danger toward her rather than to the baby ducks.
While mallards are known to most people, the world of duck identification can be intense since there are such a variety of ducks beyond mallards. Ducks can live at sea, in bays, in marshes, and in freshwater ponds. Mallards are classified as marsh ducks. They feed by turning upside down in the water and may also eat on land. They can take off into the air straight from the water, much like seaplanes. Diving sea ducks, or scoters, are some of the most difficult to identify. Just as I get my binoculars focused on a duck, suddenly it dives leaving just a frustating patch of water behind. Then I can never figure out where the duck will resurface.
I am learning a song about six ducks to sing to my baby daughter. The song has the charming lines: "Down by the river they would go, wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble to and fro."
To me, ducks symbolize a love of, and adaptation to, the water. I love marshes, bays, and the open ocean, and I can see ducks in all of those places.