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Texas Waterfowl

William P. Johnson

Publication Year: 2013

In this beautifully illustrated guide, two practicing wildlife biologists describe the life histories of forty-five species of ducks, geese, and swans that occur in Texas. For common species and those that breed in the state, each account begins with an interesting fact (such as, “Red-breasted Mergansers have been clocked at over 80 mph, the fastest recorded flight speed for a duck . . .”) and provides information on Texas distribution and harvest, population status, diet, range and habitats, reproduction, and appearance.

Exquisite photographs, informative distribution maps, and a helpful source list accompany the species descriptions, and the book offers a glossary and full bibliography for those who want to explore the literature further.

With the degradation and disappearance of the inland and coastal habitats that these birds depend upon, the natural history of these waterfowl species provides a vital reminder of the interconnectedness and crucial importance of all wetlands.

Birders, biologists, landowners, hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, and all those interested in the health and preservation of our coastal and inland wetland resources will enjoy and learn from this book.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: W. L. Moody Jr. Natural History Series


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-4

We hope this book will provide birders, hunters, naturalists, and others interested in learning about Texas waterfowl with a useful natural history resource. As we set out to write an account for each species of Texas waterfowl, we attempted to highlight the most interesting aspects of the...

Abbreviations and Map Key

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pp. 5-8

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Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

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pp. 9-11

When a female lays one or more eggs in the nest of another female (either the same species or a different species), it is known as nest parasitism. This phenomenon is common among waterfowl, but Wood Ducks and Redheads are...

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Fulvous Whistling-Duck

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pp. 12-15

No species of waterfowl is as closely associated with agriculture—moreover, a particular crop—as Fulvous Whistling-Ducks are to rice production. Wherever rice is grown within their range, they use it heavily. They forage, nest, and raise their young...

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Greater White-fronted Goose

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pp. 16-19

Parents and young of most North American geese remain together during their first winter and into spring. However, in Greater Whitefronted Geese, family members may continue to associate...

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Snow Goose

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pp. 20-24

It is common for young waterfowl to be led overland by adults. This may be due to drying wetlands or deteriorating food resources. It is also common for the young of many species to travel several miles before they are capable of...

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Ross’s Goose

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pp. 25-26

In his 1963 A Field Guide to the Birds of Texas and Adjacent States, Roger Tory Peterson described Ross’s Goose as a casual visitor to Texas and reported sightings from only 5 counties. Today these geese are widespread in the state, wintering...

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Canada Goose and Cackling Goose

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pp. 26-31

Most authorities traditionally recognized 11 subspecies of Canada Geese. However, in 2004 the American Ornithologists’ Union recommended splitting Canada Geese into two distinct species. The two new species are Cackling Geese and Canada Geese. There are still multiple subspecies, which are aligned with either Canada Geese or Cackling Geese based on genetic, geographic, and behavioral similarities...

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pp. 31-33

Brant are rare to casual visitors to Texas. There have been 29 well-documented records, and these have consisted of Lightbellied Brant (B. b. hrota) and Black Brant (B. b. nigricans). Most records are from the High...

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Trumpeter Swan

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pp. 33-35

Historically, Trumpeter Swans were a common winter visitor to Texas and may have been abundant near the coast. They have been very rare visitors since the late 1800s. Virtually all records during the 1990s involved neck-collared birds that originated from reintroduction...

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Tundra Swan

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pp. 35-37

Tundra Swans are rare to very rare in Texas. They potentially occur throughout the state, but are most often observed in the northeastern High Plains and northern Rolling Plains. Most Tundra Swans found in Texas are first-winter birds, ...

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Muscovy Duck

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pp. 37-39

Domestic Muscovy Ducks are common throughout the Americas and much of the world. Today, domestic forms are larger than their wild counterparts, with bright red facial skin and more white plumage. The exact...

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Wood Duck

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pp. 39-43

Wood Ducks are the only species of North American waterfowl that double broods frequently or produces two successful broods per season. Double brooding has been recorded throughout the lower...

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pp. 43-47

Gadwalls have the greatest salt tolerance of any North American dabbling duck. Northern Pintails often winter in hypersaline (> 35 ppt) environments, such as the Laguna Madre, but breed in freshwater wetlands. Young Mottled Ducks can...

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Eurasian Wigeon

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p. 47-47

Eurasian Wigeon are casual visitors to Texas. As of spring 2012 there have been 53 well-documented records. These are from all areas of the state, but the majority are from El Paso and Hudspeth Counties. Some...

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American Wigeon

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pp. 48-51

American Wigeon have the most herbivorous diet of the dabbling ducks. They specialize on submersed aquatic vegetation, soft parts of emergent vegetation, and leafy herbaceous plants. They forage in both wetlands and uplands...

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American Black Duck

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pp. 51-53

American Black Ducks are rare winter visitors to Texas. Recent sightings have largely been restricted to the eastern portion of the state. The Texas Bird Records Committee recognizes only eight records in Texas since 1950. These records are well documented and supported by photographs or specimens. In addition, 43 banded American Black...

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pp. 53-57

In Mallards, female body condition and production, or the number of young successfully produced during the breeding season, are correlated to the condition of wetlands used during winter and spring. This means that habitat conditions during...

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Mexican Duck

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pp. 57-59

Mexican Ducks were once considered a separate species (Anas diazi) and were even endangered due to perceived declines in the US portion of their range. After extensive hybridization with Mallards was documented in the northern portion of their range, the endangered species status was removed. Although hybridization is likely not an issue in the southerly extent of their range, they are also no longer...

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Mottled Duck

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pp. 59-62

Although rates of ingestion of lead pellets (spent lead shot) by Mottled Ducks have declined since regulations were implemented that prohibited hunting waterfowl with toxic shot, their ingestion rate is still among the...

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Blue-winged Teal

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pp. 63-66

Judging from their behavior, one would guess Blue-winged Teal are not fans of cold weather. Adult males begin departing their breeding grounds in late July or early August and are the first ducks to arrive in Texas in large numbers. They...

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Cinnamon Teal

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pp. 66-69

No two species of North American ducks look more alike in their nonbreeding plumage than Cinnamon Teal and Bluewinged Teal. In fact, female Cinnamon Teal and female Bluewinged Teal are nearly identical in appearance at all times of year...

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Northern Shoveler

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pp. 69-73

The large, broad bill of Northern Shovelers not only sets them apart from other ducks in appearance, but also in diet. They specialize on planktonic and benthic organisms, which they filter out of the water and...

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White-cheeked Pintail

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pp. 73-74

The only documented record of a White-cheeked Pintail in Texas is from Laguna Atascosa NWR, Cameron County. It was sighted repeatedly from November 20, 1978, through April 15, 1979. There is controversy over the provenance of this record and of all other records of this species in...

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Northern Pintail

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pp. 74-78

Many species have a high degree of fidelity to their nesting grounds, but pairs of Northern Pintails settle in on very shallow, ephemeral wetlands. The availability of such wetlands is highly variable from year to year; thus, Northern Pintails exhibit little...

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pp. 78-110

Garganey are very rare visitors to Texas, with only four records. All sightings have occurred between April 4 and May 17. The records are from Presidio, Galveston, and Kleberg (two) Counties. All sightings have involved males. Garganey breed in Europe and northern...

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Green-winged Teal

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pp. 79-83

Green-winged Teal are the smallest North American dabbling duck. Their diminutive size, rapid wing beats, and erratic flight often lead hunters to surmise they are the fastest duck. However, their normal flight speed is only about 30...

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pp. 83-87

Female Canvasbacks take the lead role in mate selection, as is the norm for most North American ducks that form seasonal pair bonds. However, the role of female Canvasbacks in selecting mates is so strong that even in captivity they must have...

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pp. 87-90

No areas are more important to wintering Redheads than the Laguna Madre of Texas and the Laguna Madre de Tamaulipas. From 1955 to 1994 the estimated number of Redheads wintering in the Laguna Madre system...

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Ring-necked Duck

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pp. 91-94

Kleptoparasitism occurs when one bird steals food from another bird. Among waterbirds, kleptoparasitism is most common among individuals that forage on large items that take time to consume, such as fish or long pieces of aquatic vegetation. Ring-necked Ducks commonly...

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Greater Scaup

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pp. 94-97

Traditionally, migrating and wintering Greater Scaup in the Great Lakes foraged heavily on gastropods, which accounted for about 90 percent of their diet. However, zebra mussels were introduced to the Great Lakes during the mid- to late...

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Lesser Scaup

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pp. 97-101

Population numbers of Lesser Scaup have been trending downward since the mid-1980s. Reasons for this trend are unknown, but lipid levels of spring migrants in the upper Midwest (Iowa, Minnesota, and North...

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Common Eider

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pp. 101-103

There is one well-documented record of a Common Eider from Texas. It was a male taken by a hunter in the northern Laguna Madre, Nueces County, on January 8, 2007. This individual was from the population that breeds in northeastern North America, S. m. dresseri. This is the most likely subspecies to occur in Texas, as they are regular winter visitors along the southern Atlantic coast...

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King Eider

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pp. 103-104

There are two well-documented King Eider records from Texas, both of which involved firstwinter males. They occurred in Brazoria and Galveston Counties in 1998 and 2005, respectively. The first bird was captured and sent to a wildlife rehabilitator. There is also a...

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Harlequin Duck

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pp. 104-106

There are two well-documented sightings of Harlequin Ducks from Texas. A male was photographed in Cameron County in 1990, and a male and female (possibly a pair) were observed in Van Zandt County in 1995...

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Surf Scoter

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pp. 106-107

Surf Scoters are rare in Texas, but they may occur throughout the state between late October and late April. They are most common on the upper and central portions of the Coastal Prairies, where they occur in very low numbers during most...

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White-winged Scoter

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pp. 107-109

White-winged Scoters are rare to very rare in Texas. They potentially occur on wetlands throughout the state, but like Surf Scoters, they are most common on the upper and central portions of the Coastal Prairies. Most White-winged Scoters observed in Texas are first-winter birds. They primarily occur between early November and mid-March...

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Black Scoter

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pp. 109-110

Black Scoters are encountered less frequently in Texas than are the other scoters, making them very rare. They are most common between early November and mid-March. They primarily occur in saltwater, particularly...

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Long-tailed Duck

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pp. 110-112

Long-tailed Ducks are rare to very rare in Texas. They potentially occur throughout the state, although they are most common in the Coastal Prairies. Only one banded Long-tailed Duck has been recovered in Texas; ...

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pp. 112-115

All eight cavity-nesting ducks in North America are secondary cavity nesters, meaning that they do not excavate their own nesting holes but instead use cavities that develop as a result of fire damage, storm damage, or rot, or cavities excavated by...

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Common Goldeneye

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pp. 115-118

Common Goldeneyes have a circumpolar range, breeding across the boreal forests of North America, Europe, and Asia. They are 1 of 19 Texas waterfowl that breed in both the New and Old Worlds. This group includes Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Black Scoters, Brant, Common Eiders, Common Mergansers, Fulvous Whistling- Ducks, Gadwall, Greater Scaup, Greater White-fronted Geese, Green-winged Teal...

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Barrow’s Goldeneye

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pp. 119-120

There are nine well-documented Barrow’s Goldeneye records from Texas since 1958; all but one occurred east of the 100th meridian, and several involved birds taken by hunters. Most of these records have involved adult males...

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Hooded Merganser

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pp. 120-123

Hooded Mergansers have been an unintended beneficiary of nest boxes built for Wood Ducks. They readily use these boxes, and many local populations have been established as a result of nest box programs. Nest boxes have not only played a role...

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Common Merganser

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pp. 124-127

Throughout most of their range, Common Mergansers (known as Goosanders in Europe) are renowned for eating salmon. Because of this, they are often disliked by fishermen, and some countries have even experimented with programs to reduce their...

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Red-breasted Merganser

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pp. 127-129

Red-breasted Mergansers often forage cooperatively. When foraging cooperatively, they form a loose line and herd fish into shallow areas. Groups feeding cooperatively may number up to 100. Snowy Egrets and...

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Masked Duck

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pp. 130-133

Among native North American waterfowl that breed in the continental United States, Masked Ducks and Muscovy Ducks are the two rarest breeders. Masked Ducks were long suspected of breeding in Texas, but firm evidence...

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Ruddy Duck

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pp. 133-136

Compared to other waterfowl, Ruddy Ducks have extremely large eggs and a large total clutch weight. A single egg is equivalent to about 12 percent of a female’s body weight, and remarkably, the weight of all...

Scientific Names of Animals and Plants Occurring in the Text

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pp. 137-138


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pp. 139-170


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pp. 171-176

Back Cover

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p. 230-230

E-ISBN-13: 9781603448208
E-ISBN-10: 1603448209
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603448079

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 63 color photos. 38 maps. Index. Bib.
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Nature Guide
Series Title: W. L. Moody Jr. Natural History Series