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Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

ANIMAL TRACKER

Spot-billed duck


* Japanese name: Karugamo
* Scientific name: Anas poecilorhyncha
* Description: A medium-sized, mainly gray duck that has a pale head and a black bill with a bright yellow tip. At 60 cm long, and with mottled "scaly pattern" plumage, it looks and sounds similar to the more familiar mallard, but the mallard's bill is completely yellow and its head plumage is green. The tops of the wings of the spot-billed duck are whitish, and the flight feathers are black. The male has a red spot on the underside of the bill.
* Where to find them: A migratory bird in some parts of Asia, in Japan it is a resident, and can be seen in Tokyo in small flocks on ponds all over the city. It can also be seen on marshland and rice paddies across Honshu and Kyushu. Spot-billed ducks nest on the ground, hidden in thick vegetation. Breeding is from July to September, and females lay eight to 14 eggs. A female being followed by a fleet of chicks is a common sight.
* Food: Vegetable matter, which is reached by the duck up-ending itself and scratching around on the floor of a pond. Unlike certain other water birds, these ducks do not often dive. They also take invertebrates such as snails and worms and insect larvae.
* Special features: These days it seems evidence of global warming is showing up everywhere. By no means conclusive, it can be seen in the distribution of the spot-billed ducks. Over the last 100 years, these ducks have been gradually expanding their northern range: they now live some 500 km further north than they did at the beginning of the 20th century. Like mallards, male spot-billed ducks engage in forced copulation. Although they are sociable and form pair bonds, males will readily copulate with any "spare" females they happen to encounter. For this reason not all the chicks that follow the females in summer will be the offspring of the male that paddles along with them.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BIO-IMAGE NET



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