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North Dakota Outdoors - Waterfowl Return

April 12, 1995

They're back.

It's spring, and once again the skies are full -- with wings.

Geese and ducks coming back from marshlands in Louisiana and Texas, following the melting edge of the snow -- a relentless, aerial armada that can't be turned back. It's a process as old as time, but each spring -- it seems even more wondrous than the one before ...

Some of the birds are just passing through. We won't see them, for long.

Lesser Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and Snow Geese are heading for their nesting grounds further north. Some of these Snows will venture beyond the Arctic Circle, before stopping.

But Mallards, and Blue-wing Teal, and Wood Ducks, Pintails, Ruddy Ducks, and Canvasbacks .. and other ducks will mate, and produce broods right here in the state.

And it's surprising what they need ... to raise their families.

Contrary to what you might suspect .. many mating ducks don't use the big, spectacular sheets of water. Small, often temporary bodies of water -- mini-potholes -- are what they require.

Some of these quick ponds will be dry land by early summer.

But it's here that "dabbling" ducks like mallards and pintails will perform their mating rituals. Then they'll look for nesting areas, nearby.

When the ducklings are older and ready to fly, the families will head out for bigger bodies of water. But in the spring, it's these tiny ponds that are attractive to ducks.

It goes to show .. that we can never overlook the small, essential links in Nature. To protect and preserve wildlife, we have to think of Nature as a web, and a weave. If one strand is lost, the whole web is weakened.

Like these tiny, temporary ponds. They're "courtship habitats" -- duck love-nests, if you will -- which set the stage for baby duck production. To guard nature we need to see the tiniest details as well as the big picture, and to imagine it all as a vibrant, seamless whole.

This is Lex Hames for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, saying, it's spring, and welcome back. Welcome back -- to skies festooned with waterfowl. The endless dance continues.

Related material on Waterfowl Lots of Ducks and ND Duck Count.

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Last modified Mar. 10, 1996