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Every week there are new marvels to look for in the outdoors, and Discover Nature highlights these attractions. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Josh Hartwig brings us the stories of river otters, luna moths, red buds, and other actors as they take center stage in nature’s theater.You can hear Discover Nature, Mondays at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Discover Nature: Ducks Migrate Through Missouri

Missouri Department of Conservation
pintails in flight

October 11 - October 17

Discover nature this week as American wigeon, pintail and gadwall ducks migrate through Missouri.

Waterfowl identification is a popular and growing recreation activity in the U.S.  The key to the sport is knowing the characteristics to look for so you can quickly determine what species you’re looking at.

Once ducks are spotted, the flight characteristics of the flock will be the first clue to identification.  Small, compact, fast-flying flocks are more likely to be teal or shovelers, as compared to mallards, pintails or wigeon that are more likely to be seen in loose flocks.  Divers will tend to have a faster wing beat than dabblers and canvasbacks tend to shift from wavy lines to V’s.

When the ducks are closer - color and individual silhouettes become important.

The American wigeon are nervous birds, quick to take alarm with a fast, irregular, flight with many twists and turns. The white belly and forewing are very showy in the air. The Drakes whistle; and the hens are much louder.

Pintails are slender, graceful and fast fliers that often zig-zag from great heights before leveling off to land - they can be seen in flocks with mallards.  The drakes will whistle, while hens have a course quack.

Gadwalls are small and fly swiftly in compact flocks, usually in a direct line with rapid wingbeats. Like the wigeon and the pintail, gadwall Drakes whistle; the hens quack like a mallard, but softer.

For additional help identifying waterfowl, go online to Missouri Conservation.org or visit your local Missouri Department of Conservation Nature Center.

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