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Old 12-01-2011, 08:44 PM   #1
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Default Geese & Mallards

I've often noticed a pair of Mallards coupled up with a pair of Canadian Geese. They'll often be the only creatures on a body of water and they'll stay close to each other constantly. The pictures below show the same two pair in early and later spring, so the relationship is somewhat enduring. Can someone describe the dynamics of this interaction to me? What are the advantages to each of them? Can it carry over from one year to the next? The world wants to know!

Geese & Mallards-geese-003ed.jpg
Sharing the little bit of open water.

Geese & Mallards-geese-014.jpgGeese & Mallards-geese-015.jpgGeese & Mallards-geese-016.jpg
When they sensed me, they tried to walk away over the ice...the thin ice..the ice just thick enough to support a goose for about 1 second before his foot plunges through, making his walk rather, um, interesting.

Geese & Mallards-geese-023.jpg
About a month later...
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Old 12-01-2011, 08:56 PM   #2
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Nice shots, Bulu! And yes, I've seen this too. I have a pic on some hard drive of a Mallard drake climbing up on a Canada goose nest to hang out with the mama goose.
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Old 12-02-2011, 12:30 AM   #3
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"Can someone describe the dynamics of this interaction to me? What are the advantages to each of them? Can it carry over from one year to the next?" This is pretty common place by me. There aren't too many areas that aren't disturbed by humans around here unless you take a road trip west an hour or so. Your birds shoulda been "off" by now but then you know that. It's likely they're 2nd or 3rd generation to that pond so they've grown accustomed to humans is all. It's the sporadic hand outs they've gotten from folk tossing food in the water when they were cute and little that usually encourages some birds to "hang". Areas like what you photographed that are frequented by us do have another advantage....fewer predators. The geese and the mallards occupy the same space for the same reasons tolerating our presence and the presence of each other more than anything else. They've staked their claim so to speak.... this behavior will probably "carry over" to next year.
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Old 12-02-2011, 06:44 AM   #4
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I just hope that their relationship isn't headed for a quack up...
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Old 12-02-2011, 08:21 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suunto View Post
I just hope that their relationship isn't headed for a quack up...
ow


Actually, Equil, these are old pictures that I ran across when I was looking for the 'Flight of Fancy' photo I included with the "My Reservoir" post. They're from spring of a few years ago. This piece of water is up at the farm and has been abandoned for well over a month, even with the ridiculously warm weather we've been having. I'm also pretty sure that there have never been any handouts at this particular locale, but there are acres of beaver bog there with a pasture and meadow nearby so I can see it's appeal to them. At the point of these photos they are just waiting to move back into the thicker stuff and set up house.
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Old 12-03-2011, 12:03 PM   #6
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I wonder if the ducks benefit from the geese feeding upon the bottom. Gleaning something the geese either miss or do not eat themselves?
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Old 12-03-2011, 06:20 PM   #7
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"I wonder if the ducks benefit from the geese feeding upon the bottom. Gleaning something the geese either miss or do not eat themselves?"
That's very possible Hava, as ducks are more omnivorous and geese are pretty strictly herbivorous.
I was also thinking simply "safety in numbers". Geese can be pretty territorial with each other around breeding time, but other than that, I think most, if not all, waterfowl prefer to flock, even with other species.
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Old 12-05-2011, 04:26 PM   #8
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Geese are pretty good watch dogs, too, aggressively chasing off predators that might be able to get the ducks. That explains why the ducks might want to hang with the geese, but not vice versa.

On a similar note, my chickadees and titmice seem to flock together all year, standing guard while the other feeds at the feeder and generally cooperating rather than competing with each other. In the winter, a very mixed flock develops, but doesn't seem to last past the return of good weather.

Birds do like to flock together, and perhaps, Bulu', if your pond had more of each species they would be flocking with their own kind rather than together but will make do with who is there if that is the choice.
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Old 12-09-2011, 12:52 PM   #9
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Bulu> anytime there’s foot traffic….no matter how light… I’ve found it usually spells some sorta trouble for mallards, geese, and/or…. us. We might not ever run across anyone actually tossing “treats” in the water… especially if it’s posted we’re not supposed to do it (think sneakers looking left and right and over their shoulders before tossing) but…. it happens. Some folk just can’t avoid the temptation of tossing in what ever snacks they’ve got on hand to draw waterfowl in closer so they can get a better look see. It’s the classic stimulus and response for waterfowl and it doesn’t seem to take much more than a few hand outs for some to make the connection any human could potentially be “bearing” gifts so…. they start by swimming in a little closer when people approach. Most folk really don’t know any better and of those who do…. few get to see consequences of their actions, Stop Feeding Waterfowl - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation. If they’re closing off your reservoir to the public….my guess is even 2nd and 3rd generation mallards and geese that “learned” to tolerate humans and each other…. will start migrating on time and Kodak moments of them in such close proximity will become increasingly less frequent.
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disuhan> I think you for sure nailed the instinct to flock kicking in high gear any time there aren’t larger numbers of any given species present. I definitely think ducks could easily learn that geese stirring up “goodies” from the bottom like… a coupla snails here and there and some nice plump crustaceans or worms would be a good thing if the timing was right but… not so sure that’s what’s at the root of the “flocking” behavior in bulu’s photo. Just curious what you think prompts mallards and geese out east to “hang” at a time when they should be far far away? Around me…. it seems to always boil down to foot traffic a site receives. The higher the foot traffic…. the more likely it is they have been or are being artificially fed. I can always spot a few migratory laggers at sites open to the public even if they’re remote locations. Increased foot traffic and…. I for sure start seeing mallards and geese “hanging” together unnaturally delaying or foregoing migration entirely. Golf courses and corporate ponds with employees be bopping around all year long regularly tossing in “snacks” are the worst. I can guarantee I’ll see these species trying to “hang” all winter in and around those bodies of water…. those ponds experience the highest die offs of mallards too. A few years ago I saw maintenance staff bagging dead mallards. Some of the goings on around me can be real tear jerkers because folk just don’t understand why feeding wildlife is a big no no.
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Turttle> “That explains why the ducks might want to hang with the geese, but not vice versa.” Those birds were photographed on a body of water that’s iced over which was probably taken in early spring during mating season or late in fall when… most fresh water “goodies” would be “hunkered” down. Why would mallards risk injury “hanging” with geese at either time of year when natural resources would be so scarce unless they were staving off starvation? Geese are extremely territorial and can be overly aggressive with other animals and us and water birds do have a pecking order for lack of a better term with the geese being king ‘o the pond. Even if “goodies” compliments of the geese were worth the risk to the mallards …. I don’t see much benefit to geese tolerating the mallards unless…. they'd been conditioned to congregate unnaturally.
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Old 12-09-2011, 02:02 PM   #10
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It's my belief that the driving force of migration is food, as opposed to cold. Raptors see fewer small animals due to hibernation/torpor in the winter time, songbirds miss out on insects (think highly-migratory warblers) and some fruits... etc. So they go where the food is, and that's not always south.

Long Island is a huge waterfowl wintering area - we have a milder climate and most of the time there's water around that remains unfrozen - so when you say they should be far far away, that's not true for everywhere that's experiencing winter. While Bulu's town isn't quite coastal, it's close enough, and appears to have a decent amount of water around.

Now the majority of waterfowl species that winter here do not appreciate people coming close and will fly or swim away. Mallards and geese aren't really part of that majority though. If you think of what a Canada goose's natural habitat (historically) would be, baseball fields, golf courses and parks are pretty much the modern day replacement for all of those open meadows and tundras dotted with wetlands have have disappeared. (Maybe the tundras are still around up north, but why migrate back and forth when your wintering habitat has become lush enough to raise babies? It's all about energy conservation!) And with all the fertilizer and watering, it's habitat that never runs out of food!! It's a goose's dream come true!
I could go on and on about how we've created the monster that is the Canada goose overpopulation problem... but I'll save it.

As for the mallards, some migrate, some don't (at least around here). They seem to be pretty opportunistic and they'll just take what they can get. They'll also attempt to breed with just about anything they can climb onto!
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