Polk County Conservation

Wildlife Migration

This podcast was produced by Polk County Conservation and funded by Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education program or REAP-CEP.

Hi! My name is Heidi Anderson, naturalist for Polk County Conservation. I am so excited because I have landed an interview with an animal that I’ve always wanted to talk to, a mallard duck. Mr. Mallard, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me today. Please, tell me a little about yourself.

Obviously I’m an attractive male with a beautiful green head. I’m about 1 ½ feet tall and my wingspan is an impressive 3 feet. I have 10 brothers and sisters, 28 children, 52 grandchildren, and 160 great grandchildren. Needless to say, I never have a problem attracting a mate. Hello Ladies!

Wow, you seem to be quite a popular drake with the hens. I didn’t think ducks had such large families! Do you ever try to get everyone together for a family reunion?

No. I leave my mate as soon as incubation begins and look for other males to hang out with until our annual fall migration to Texas begins. I know of an awesome lake down there where there is plenty to eat and the weather is fabulous.

Speaking of migration, I’ve always wondered what it’s really like to fly hundreds of miles in one day?

I’m not going to sugar coat it, its stressful okay? Sometimes we need to stop and rest and finding a pit stop isn’t always easy. Wetlands are just not around like they used to be. So we waste a lot of energy flying even further and further to find a place to rest our wings.

And, once we find a wetland, getting in and out is no picnic. We have to deal with bad weather, power lines, predators that want to eat us, and let’s not forget the hunters who try to shoots us (shotgun sound effect) …. Whoa, that was close. Oh yeah, and keep in mind ducks are not the only things flying the friendly skies… ever see what happens to a duck that ends up on the wrong end of a 747? It’s not a pretty sight. Sadly, some ducks perish before our journey ends.

I’m sorry to hear that. It’s always been a big mystery to us humans how birds know where to migrate to? Do you have a map, compass, GPS? What’s your secret?

I’m afraid I can’t tell you exactly. It’s a complicated process. We use the wind, sun, stars, and even visual landmarks. Sometimes we use just of one these techniques, or a combination of a few of them.

Can you at least tell me how you know when to head south?

Well, the big cue for us is the weather and shorter days. It triggers something within us to eat a lot and then head south.

Wow! Fascinating! I want to thank Mr. Mallard for his time today. I know you’re anxious to get back to the flock so you can get ready for your annual migration southward. Good luck!

Hey, thanks. I’ll see you next spring!

See ya! Ducks are not the only animals that move with the changing seasons. Other animals like monarch butterflies, bats, whales, caribou, and others also migrate. I encourage you to head outdoors to see if you can catch a glimpse of migrating wildlife in your area. I know I’ll be scanning the skies this fall with a new appreciation for migrating birds!

This podcast was funded by REAP-CEP which is a program the State of Iowa invests in to enhance and protect the state's natural and cultural resources. REAP provides money for projects through state agency budgets or in the form of grants. For more information about REAP, visit iowareap.com.

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