The impressive courtship maneuvers of drakes — Ducks Unlimited Canada
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Waterfowl, Wildlife

The impressive courtship maneuvers of drakes

Whether it’s through whistling, head bobbing or blowing bubbles, each species has a unique – and captivating – set of courtship maneuvers. Here are five of the impressive lengths some drakes will go to get the girl.

March 10, 2020
Green-winged teal
Green-winged teal © Monte Stinnett

1. Hooded Mergansers

Hooded mergansers
Hooded mergansers © Leung Birdimages Photography

Several hooded merganser drakes gather around a single or group of hens in a bid for their attention. They perform a number of displays such as raising their white head-crests, head-shaking, “head-throwing,” head-pumping and uttering frog-like croaks in their attempts to woo the females.

2. Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye
Common Goldeneye © DUC

The common goldeneye male will stretch his head forward and then snap it quickly backwards, pointing his bill upward while uttering a shrill, two-noted cry. He then rapidly kicks his feet backwards and splashes water high into the air.

3. Ruddy Duck

Ruddy duck
Ruddy duck © Steve Zamek/

The ruddy duck male puts on a colourful display for the willing hen. He will “rush” past a female several times with his head and tail lowered. He then stops suddenly to cock his tail feathers upwards while fanning them out. And just as quickly, he begins to rapidly drum his bill against his chest, forcing air out from his chest feathers to cause “bubbling.” He then throws his head forward and calls out to the female.

4. Green-winged teal

Green-winged teal
Green-winged teal © Monte Stinnett

Green-winged teal males are very social in their courtship. Several will attempt to woo a female using a head-up-tail-up display, where both head and tail are raised simultaneously in a very quick display broadside to the female. This display is common in several dabbler species including the pintail. Green-winged teals will also try to attract a potential mate by raising their heads and making loud “burps.”

5. Western grebes

Western grebes
Western grebes © DUC

Western grebes have one of the most elegant and elaborate displays of courtship, especially during the “rushing ceremony.” Once a mating pair is established, both the male and female will leap from the water in unison, stretch their heads and torsos skywards, pull their wings back and begin to “rush” across the water by rapidly kicking their feet just below the surface. The dance is complete with a dive back into the water – affirming the union.