Winter Waterfowl

February 18, 2021

A local duck’s guide to seasonal romance

Chelsea Cooper
Staff Writer

Photos by Chelsea Cooper

Traverse City’s duck community can be spotted along nearly every horizon our city has to offer, no matter the season. In the winter, open water habitats can be found teeming with duck activity despite the temperature. Not all ducks migrate, especially if they are used to finding food in their usual habitats. As long as there are open water sources for food, aquatic plants and insects keep our local ducks happy until the more abundant seasons return.


As winter’s chill sets in, ducks are heating things up. The winter solstice is quite a romantic time for our city ducks as they form “pair bonds” between the months of December and March. This means they are only monogamous for the season, with Valentine’s Day coinciding with the height of their romantic pursuits.


In the duck courtship world, Cupid’s bow belongs entirely to the females. One female duck can have multiple groups of males perform for her, and she picks her favorite drake according to her opinion of the best plumage and the best display. If his courtship moves are fresh and she likes his style, they’re together for a season of webbed and wedded bliss. Some of these courtship moves include head pumping, grunt-whistling, nod-swimming, and the impressive “head-up-tail-up.”


There are plenty of places around Traverse City to try and catch a glimpse into the love lives of our local winter waterfowl, and many of them are great venues to bring a human date

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