Oh, The Humiliation!
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The other day I was watching a flock of about a dozen Northern Shovelers feeding on a pond at Sweetwater Wetlands. Shovelers are communal feeders. Often they gather in small to even large flocks and they swim together, putting their heads down into the water in unison to strain food into their sieve-like bills. Sometimes they even swim in a circle, one following the other, as they feed.
I watched the ducks peacefully feeding. But, then, there was an incident. A male, not yet in full breeding plumage, and perhaps a youngster making the transition to adulthood, cut in front of a female, momentarily blocking her path. It appeared to be unintentional, but the female took offense. And, to my surprise, she swiftly swam up to the male, quacking loudly and angrily, rode up onto his back from behind, and for a moment dunked him entirely underwater. She then turned as if nothing had happened and swam away.
The male, however, appeared to be stunned for a second. He bobbed to the surface, looked around to see who his aggressor was, and then, shook the excess water off himself. I took this picture.
Look closely and you’ll see that the duck is covered with water droplets. The air around him is filled with a spray of fine droplets that he is shaking off. And, you’ll see a big glob of water dripping from his beak.
Chastened, the male resumed feeding. I suspect that, at least for a while, however, he’ll watch where he swims.
Photo made with Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, ISO 400, aperture preferred setting, f6.3 @ 1/1,250.