Banding Plan Seeks Data on the Mottled Duck
By Shannon Tompkins/Houston Chronicle
Photo by Gary Leavens /flickr
One recent evening, as dusk yielded to the profound darkness that on moonless summer nights still envelops wildlands far enough removed from the civilization’s halo of artificial light, scattered clusters of mottled ducks — mostly hens shepherding their almost-grown ducklings — paddled into the flooded bulrush and other aquatic vegetation fringing open water of an expanse of shallow coastal wetlands on the upper Texas coast’s Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, settling in for the night.
It would not be a quiet night for many of them. Some would be chased and snatched from their home, fit with bands on their legs and maybe have a bit of their blood drawn. But, in the end, they would be delivered, unharmed, back to their world.
That world is almost wholly limited to the coastal plain of the western Gulf Coast, specifically the remaining marsh and coastal prairie wetlands found in a 50- to 100-mile-wide band of country stretching from Mobile Bay, Ala., to Tampico, Mexico.
Unlike almost all other waterfowl — even the black-bellied and fulvous whistling ducks and wood ducks that nest in Texas — mottled ducks don’t migrate. They are homebodies; almost 90 percent of the world’s mottled ducks are born, live and die in that narrow band of the Gulf Coast coastal plain.
As such, the fate of these Gulf Coast natives is inexorably tied to the health of their homeland.