Wintering Waterfowl

Richard Moore Outdoor Report

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. The Lower Laguna Madre is home to an estimated 80 percent 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 Nature Center’s freshwater outflow into the bay.

The Lower Laguna Madre is one of only three hyper saline bays in the world and is often saltier than the Gulf of Mexico. Redheads feed primarily on submerged aquatic grasses in the bay. The abundant shoal grass being 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 fresh water sources to drink and clean their feathers.

The fresh water flowing thru the Nature Center’s mangroves into the bay comes from the South Padre Island water treatment facility. The fresh water 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 fresh water source, and the male’s 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 Birding and Nature Center.

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