by Dr. Wayne Lynch
February 3, 2017
Drake Long-tailed Duck-Mating Partner of the Female
With sexual harassment so much in the news these days you might wonder if such behavior ever occurs in the natural world. This past June, in the Canadian Arctic, I watched groups of adult male long-tailed ducks, on two different occasions, try to forcibly mate with a female that was already paired with a partner.
Female Long-tailed Duck
Mated Pair of Long-tailed Ducks
Both events occurred on the same small tundra lake and involved four trespassing males. These testosterone-crazed drakes were aggressively intent on paternity. On both occasions the long-tailed male who was paired with the female tried to fight off the aggressive gang of drakes. He bit them, beat them with his wings, chased them in the air and pursued them underwater, but the trespassers were not easily deterred and kept up their aggressive attempts to mate with the female. Her only recourse was to dive repeatedly to escape the drakes. Every time she tried to fly away she was driven back down to the water by one or more of the pursuing males. The forced mating attempts lasted for nearly 30 minutes in both instances and although I never saw what happened to the female in the second occasion, in the first case she dove and surfaced unseen by the edge of the lake, skulked along the tundra for 50 meters or so and then flew away undetected by the marauding gang.
One of the Harassing Drake Long-tailed Ducks
A Second Harassing Drake Long-tailed Duck
Two of the Harassing Drakes Challenging Each Other
Two Harassing Drakes
Harassed Female Attempting to Escape Underwater
Female Long-tailed Duck Chased by Trespasser & Defended by Her Mate
Female Escaping Harasser by Diving Underwater
Female Escaping Harassment by Diving Underwater
Protective Drake Long-tailed Duck
Female Long-tailed Duck After Harassers Left
Forced matings occur in less than three percent of bird species overall but are relatively common in waterfowl having been reported in a third of species. In some cases the mating attempts are so aggressive that the female is injured; sometimes even killed.
Bio: Dr. Lynch is a popular guest lecturer and an award-winning science writer. His books cover a wide range of subjects, including: the biology and behaviour of owls, penguins and northern bears; arctic, boreal and grassland ecology; and the lives of prairie birds and mountain wildlife. He is a fellow of the internationally recognized Explorers Club - a select group of scientists, eminent explorers and distinguished persons, noteworthy for their contributions to world knowledge and exploration. He is also an elected Fellow of the prestigious Arctic Institute of North America.
Dr. Wayne Lynch
3779 Springbank Drive S. W.
Calgary, AB, T3H J5
Read previous articles by Dr. Wayne Lynch
Southern Elephant Seals
Springtime in a Prairie Slough
The Blind Photographer
Going After Gators
Oomingmak - The Bearded One
Art from the Afterlife
Bella Coola Eagles
Burrowing Owls in Alberta
Adventures with Snakes
Click on the buttons below and share this site with your friends