Richard Moore Outdoor Report: Wintering Waterfowl

Richard Moore Outdoor Report

HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) – If you want to see lots of ducks, then the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center is the place to go.

This time of year, tens of thousands of ducks winter in southernmost Texas, and the Lower Laguna Madre is home to an estimated 80% of the million-plus Redhead ducks residing in North America.

Redhead ducks, with the males shimmering cinnamon heads, are the most abundant avian visitors, and they gather in impressive rafts at the SPI Birding and Nature Center’s freshwater outflow into the bay.

The Lower Laguna Madre is one of only three hypersaline bays in the world and is often saltier than the Gulf of Mexico. Redheads feed primarily on submerged aquatic grasses in the bay, and the abundant shoal grass is their favorite.

In the process of consuming marine plants, Redheads ingest high levels of salt. While they have a special salt gland that helps them process the salt, they also flock to freshwater sources to drink and clean their
feathers.

The freshwater flowing thru the nature center’s mangroves into the bay comes from the South Padre Island water treatment facility. The freshwater entering the bay overlies the denser saline water and provides a valuable resource for the ducks.

Joining the Redheads are various other ducks such as the American wigeon, with the male sporting a bright buff head and gleaming green eye stripe.

Pintails also enjoy the freshwater source, and the males’ chocolate brown head, white neck stripe, and elegantly long-tail proclaims them as one of the most strikingly beautiful birds in the world.

If you want to see these wonderful winter waterfowl, take a stroll down the boardwalk at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.

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