Find Some Dapper Ducks This Fall

North America is home to several striking drakes, and autumn is the best season to see their fresh plumage.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote!

Take a walk around any local pond or lake in late November, and you’ll find ducks in their most brilliant breeding colors. The male or drake Mallards sparkle their greenest on their heads and necks, and their bills are now golden yellow. Green-winged Teal males are at full luster, every detail of their complex plumage precisely delineated. Male Northern Shovelers have regained their deep emerald head-feathers and rich brown flanks.

After months of molting out of their nondescript late-summer feathers, known as “eclipse plumage,” male dabbling ducks look their finest in late fall and winter because for most ducks, this is the season of courtship and pair-bonding. Males display and chase females and fend off other males, to win a mate with whom they’ll migrate in spring to their nesting grounds. That’s a schedule quite different from the usual timetable of songbirds, which sing and court and find mates in the spring, after migrating to a nesting area.

You’ll find four seasons’ worth of birds in the latest “Birds of BirdNote” calendar. It’s available at our website, I’m Michael Stein.


Don't stop here! Visit our free online bird guide to find profiles and range maps for all of our North American ducks. 



Calls of the ducks provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.  Mallard recorded by A.A. Allen, Northern Shoveler and Green-winged Teal recorded by W.W.H. Gunn.

Producer:  John Kessler

Executive Producer:  Chris Peterson

© 2013 Tune In to   November 2018   Narrator: Michael Stein