Musk duck, male displaying, Perth, Western Australia. I’ve just spent a week with @gary_kramer_photography photographing ducks across southern Australia and we came across a heap of musk ducks displaying. Musk ducks are perhaps the most bizarre of all duck species. This highly aquatic, stiff-tailed duck is endemic to southern Australia and derives its common name from a peculiar musky odour it emanates during the breeding season. Adult males have a distinctive large, leathery lobe underneath the bill, a feature which females lack. During the breeding season, the males advertise themselves loudly with a repetitive sequence of sounds: first, a splash made with the feet on the surface of the water; then two soft, sharp calls; then a loud whistle and a deep grunt. This sequence can be started at any time of day or night, with or without an associated visual display, and repeated every 4 or 5 seconds for as long as half an hour at a time. Although the lobe below the bill of the males swells during the breeding season, it is not connected to the vocal cavities and appears to be purely for visual purposes. Mating is thought to be promiscuous, quite possibly on a lek system, but this remains uncertain. However, we encountered a large group of over 200 musk ducks, many of which were males, and many were displaying at the same time, certainly very reminiscent of leking behaviour. The bird shown here has just splashed the water with his feet, which is clearly visible in the photo. Many thanks to Heather Thorning @heather_thorning and John Barkla @johnbarkla for providing locations of duck species in WA and Victoria, respectively, which made the job of tracking down waterfowl so much easier.
Photo details: Nikon D500 + Nikon 300 mm f4 PF tele +TC-14E iii 1.4X.
Feature hubs are welcome to use this image provided credit is given.
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