Ducks

Anas sp.Order: Family:

Note relevant information about latin name, close relatives, etc.

Recommended Species

  • Buffalo Zoo: We use call ducks.
  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: We are partial to Indian Runners.
  • Natural Science Center of Greensboro: We use runner ducks. Interesting body type, many colors, trainable to recall/follow.
  • Tracy Aviary: We’ve had white-faced whistling ducks in our ambassador program for years now – they are great little birds to work with and I recommend them!
  • Zoo Atlanta: whistling ducks would win hands down as ambassadors and I believe a number of people have used them in the past!

A “teal” is one of those generic terms that has no real significance but as an indicator of a small species of duck.

Of those species that fall into the category of small ducks (non-domestic) many of them are somewhat nervous by nature. The 1st species I would choose is Laysan teal. Even in a non-ambassador situation they tend to be confiding. They are not flashy but they hit a lot of other boxes!

  • They are nosy and into everything
  • They are pretty laid back
  • Size is a little smaller and slimmer than a domestic call duck without the endless noise…..
  • They are slightly dimorphic
  • Thy don’t need a great deal of water and they really enjoy mud 🙂
  • They are cold-tolerant outdoors to probably 20 degrees, below that I would nanny them. But makes them useable outside for most/all of the year depending on where you are
  • They don’t need to be excessively imprinted
  • Highly responsive to mealworms!
  • They are not quick as quick to take flight as many waterfowl species
  • Should be housed with a conspecific
  • They are a native species tho their range is a couple of tiny islands at the western end of the Hawaiian chain, maybe 600 miles west of Honolulu
  • They are endangered and breeding in human care was a savior for the species at one point – great conservation story
  • They are pretty readily available in North America but not an SSP species
  • They are just plain cute in person (Did I really say that)?
    • My back-up species would be ringed teal but personally I’d go for Laysan any time.
  • Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center: Fulvous Whistling Ducks work great as ambassadors! Ours were hand-raised

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Ducks can be found nearly worldwide.

Most domestic ducks are derived from mallard ducks, which are native to the temperate and sub-tropical areas of North America, Europe, and Asia. They can be found in freshwater or estuarine environments.

Longevity

  • Courtship behavior involves males swimming in the presence of females, shaking their heads and tails. The head-shaking display is often done with their breasts held clear of the water and with their necks outstretched. They may also raise their wingtips, heads, and tails briefly and then swim with their necks outstretched and held close to the water. Groups of four to five males may swim around a female, arching their necks, whistling, and then lowering their bills below the water surface and jerking their bills up to their breasts while spurting water towards the preferred female. Male ducks can be quite aggressive during mating. If a number of males mob one female, they could accidentally drown her during mating.
  • Duck eggs hatch 28 days after they are laid. Ducklings inside the egg have an “egg tooth,” a sharp point on the tip of the beak that the duckling uses to break through the eggshell. The egg tooth will fall off the beak after the duckling has finished hatching.
  • Ducklings are able to fly within 5 to 8 weeks of age, and reach sexual maturity at 6 to 12 months old.

Ecosystem Role

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Life Cycle Natural History Relevant Information
    • Include relevant information on breeding, reproduction, growth and development that may require necessary housing modifications.
  • Temperature, Humidity, Light Cycles, Water
    • Habitat-relevant natural history information here
    • Seneca Park Zoo: Very good for educational messages, but can be difficult to care for depending on your housing set up. They need fresh water to swim in every day.
    • Philadelphia Zoo: proper husbandry can be tougher because they need a pond and they are messy.
  • Social Housing/Colony Management
    • Behavioral/Breeding natural history information here
    • Note how this species may be socially housed at your facility, how unique identifiers are used to differentiate individuals (where necessary), if they are housed in same sex or mixed sex groups, mixed age groups or multi-generational groups, with conspecifics only, in interspecific setups, etc. Note space requirements for social housing compared to singly-housed animals.
    • Ducks are found in large social groups.
  • Other General Housing Requirements or Management information
    • Needs variety of substrates to prevent bumblefoot.

Diet Requirements

  • Life Cycle Relevant Information
    • Diet in the Wild
    • In the wild, mallard ducks eat insects, plants, worms, frogs, snails, and shellfish.
    • Domestic ducks are dabbling ducks: they feed mainly on vegetable matter on the surface of the water, and they do not dive for food.

  • Diet under human care
    • Ducks can be fed a variety of foods including waterfowl pellets, fish, invertebrates, duckweed, and/or chopped vegetables such as lettuce.
    • Note any high value items used for enrichment or training: mealworms are popular

Veterinary Concerns

  • Ducks can be a reservoir for Avian Influence and some vets in zoos are not comfortable having them in the collection since they could draw wild ducks in if they are housed outside.
  • Seems prone to bumblefoot if not given a variety of substrates.

Enrichment & Training

Enrichment

  • Behavioral Relevant Information
    • Giving multiple substrates for the duck to walk on such as dry deck, mulch and straw gives the animal choice of where to spend time. Multiple substrates also helps prevent the development of bumble-foot.
    • Mulch and straw can encourage natural foraging.
  • Environmental Enrichment
    • Describe environmental/habitat changes made for this species to enrich its home
  • Behavioral Enrichment
    • Clicker training with meal worms as reinforcement works well to train a duck to go in and out of a travel crate.
    • List devices or techniques that are “popular” or favorites of this species at your facility
  • Schedule
    • Note frequency/enrichment schedule for this species at your institution
  • Other Enrichment Resources

Training

  • Behaviors Trained
    • Note any behaviors this species is trained for, both for husbandry, crating/transport, or for programming.
    • Can the public participate in any trained behaviors?
  • Reinforcers used & schedule of reinforcement
    • Are reinforcers used only while shaping the behavior? Are they used/delivered during programming?

Programmatic Information

Messaging Themes

Threats and Conservation Status

  • For domestic species, there is no special conservation status.
  • Common predators include birds of prey, foxes, dogs, cats, and people.

Interesting Natural History Information

  • Males make much more noise than females do, but females are the only ones that make the familiar “quack quack” sound. Males make a whistling noise instead.

Did you know…

  • Domestic ducks can be 4 to 12 pounds, depending on the breed.
  • In general, males are heavier than females.
  • Male ducks are called “drakes” and females are “hens.” Babies are “ducklings.” Males have a drake feather: a curved feather on the tail.
  • Ducks are one of the few bird species that have a penis like appendage. Other birds that have penis-like appendages are geese, swans, and ratites.
  • The outer feathers are waterproof due to oil from a special gland that is spread around to all the feathers. Beneath the waterproof layer are fluffy and soft feathers that keep the duck warm.
  • The Muscovy duck is the only domestic duck breed that is not derived from mallards.

Handling & Presentation Tips

Use Guidelines

  • Do you have any special guidelines or restrictions on use of this species; i.e. indoor only, presented on table only, needs a day off after two days of programs, not used during any period of the year, other restrictions for handlers or use?

Pubic Contact and Interaction Guidelines

  • Do you allow public contact with this species, and in what settings and manner? Note touching techniques, where necessary.
  • Note other unique ways the public is able to interact with this species, whether they can touch or not. i.e. do you allow feeding, do you have a unique display for meet and greets (share photos), can the public participate in a training session, etc.

Transportation Tips

  • Describe or share photos of your carrier setup
  • Note any changes you may make for seasonal transportation
  • Philadelphia Zoo: Tend to stress more when travelling

Crating Techniques

  • How do you set up your carrier/crate for transporting this species safely and comfortably

Temperature Guidelines

Acquisition Information

Include SSP PL contact information, where relevant.

Resources

  • IC contact – list Maureen‘s email to contact to find out who their IC is
  • SSP PL contact, if applicable?
  • Animal handling protocol samples
  • Temp guidelines sample
  • AA evaluation tool
  • Scheduling templates/protocols
  • St. Louis Rubric
  • Equipment supplies (crates, covers, leashes, etc)

Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo

Top Photo Credit:

By Steven G. Johnson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons