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Mating Season

Canada geese are monogamous in their breeding behavior. The courtship displays of Canada geese can be very elaborate. They establish a bond (attachment between male and female goose) either on the wintering grounds or on the nesting grounds, and this bond is lifetime. The initial courting behavior involves mutual neck dipping between the two, they then swim out, and turn to face each other; both will begin dipping their necks up and down. The breeding season will vary but usually occurs in our area (Northern Virginia) from February through mid-April.
It is the female who chooses her mate based on his displays of behaviors and how well he demonstrates he can protect her. The female indicates her choice of a male by beginning to follow him on land or water or standing next to him at all times. Once paired, the geese stay bonded until one member of the pair dies. Mated pairs who have been separated for even a short time greet each other with an elaborate greeting display. This display includes loud honking between the pair and head rolling by the male. During head rolling, the neck is extended and the head is rolled back and forth. The geese also raise their head and bodies and flap their wings. During mating season, couples will go off together and be alone. You will see couples grazing on the side of road, in median strips, at office buildings. You will see fewer geese at ponds and lakes, because the couples are off to themselves near the selected nesting site. At the pond or lake, you will see males chasing other males all over the place. There is much noise at this time, while the geese are fighting over who gets a mate or defending the mate that has selected him. They have developed their own complex courting behaviors. Once paired, the geese stay bonded until one member of the pair dies. If a mate is lost, the surviving goose will mourn for a long period of time. The exception in long mourning will be if a young goose who has mated for the first year, and has lost his mate; the survivor may select another mate IF it is early in the mating season.The male will begin to defend the immediate area around the female, once he realizes he has been chosen. Males fight over females with their wings and bills, lots of chasing, biting other males, and honking. The winner approaches the female with his head down and neck undulating. He makes hissing and honking noises. The pairs mate either before or after they have found a nesting location. The female always returns to the same nesting spot each year. The displays that the males perform range from the Head-Up-Tail-Up (male throws his head back and jerks with his tail feathers erect) to the Grunt (male rears out of the water and slowly sinks back down while making a loud grunting sound). Both the male and accepting female then continues the courtship by performing other displays separately or in unison. Mating occurs in the spring on the water and at nighttime (that’s why they aren’t seen mating). Copulation begins with both sexes bobbing their heads up and down and touching their bills to the water horizontally with their necks extended. As the female extends her neck and her wings flattened out, the male “joins” her (while in the water). The female is usually partially submerged or completed submerged (with only head out of water) while copulation takes place. The male stands on her back. After copulation the female bathes while the male faces her and then he bathes.
Breeding season: February-April. Displays of mating behavior, such as males chasing each other, couples separating from large groups, and loud honking all the time, starts in mid to late February, depending on the climate.

(National Geographic)

The Mallard Duck

The mallard is the most common duck in the United States, with the greatest abundance between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains. Mallard populations have benefited greatly from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and other grassland restoration efforts in the northern prairies of the United States, where populations have increased 100 percent above the long-term average.The mallard is one of the most recognized of all ducks and is the ancestor of several domestic breeds. Its wide range has given rise to several distinct populations. The male mallard’s white neck-ring separates the green head from the chestnut-brown chest, contrasts with the gray sides, brownish back, black rump and black upper- and under-tail coverts. The speculum is violet-blue bordered by black and white, and the outer tail feathers are white. The bill is yellow to yellowish-green and the legs and feet are coral-red. Male utters a soft, rasping “kreep.” The female mallard is a mottled brownish color and has a violet speculum bordered by black and white. The crown of the head is dark brown with a dark brown stripe running through the eye. The remainder of the head is lighter brown than the upper body. The bill is orange splotched with brown, and the legs and feet are orange. Mallards have one of the most extensive breeding ranges of any duck in North America, extending across the northern third of the United States and up to the Bering Sea. The highest mallard densities occur in the Prairie Pothole Region of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and North Dakota, with nests placed in upland habitat near wetlands on the ground, or in tree holes or nest boxes. Female mallards lay an average of 9 eggs.
Mallards migrate along numerous corridors, but the greatest concentrations move from Manitoba and Saskatchewan through the Midwestern United States to the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Mallards winter throughout the United States, with the highest densities typically recorded during winter surveys along the Mississippi Flyway from Cape Girardeau, Mo., to the Gulf of Mexico. Among the dabbling ducks, mallards are one of the latest fall migrants. They also have the most extended migration period, which lasts from late summer to early winter. Mallards are found in a variety of habitats, including dry agricultural fields, shallow marshes and oak-dominated forested wetlands.