Duck, duck, goose! Let’s talk about some of our most endearing feathered friends: waterfowl. This category of birds includes ducks, geese, and swans, and it often extends to include other birds, too, such as loons, coots, and grebes. All in all, there are a huge number of waterfowl species, providing bird enthusiasts with a parade of interesting colors, shapes, and behaviors to discover. There is also a variety of wetland types across Canada and New Brunswick, including marshes, bogs, swamps, and fens, the most common areas to find all sorts of waterfowl!
Wetlands are vital environmental resources and play an important role in supporting waterfowl and many other types of wildlife, while also providing an ecological service to us too! They regulate the flow of water through the environment by absorbing rainwater and meltwater from snow which prevents flooding during periods of heavy precipitation or runoff. Wetlands gradually release this absorbed water during dry seasons, which also mitigates drought. The water in wetlands also gets purified, as the plants that inhabit wetlands help filter the water by absorbing and accumulating toxins and excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous which prevents harmful algal or bacterial blooms.
Boreal Wetlands (DUC) https://www.ducks.ca/our-work/wetlands/
Waterfowl, as their name suggests, spend much of their time in and around the water. Many waterfowl live in healthy wetlands which entails high biodiversity, meaning they encompass a large variety of plants, algae, and invertebrates, providing a range of excellent food supply for all waterfowl. They also provide a habitat for birds to nest and raise their young, as well as protection as a variety of tall plants like cattails allow them to camouflage from predators. Wetlands are also essential to migration success as they serve as resting spots allowing them to refuel along their route to their destination to avoid the harsh winter months. In other words, wetlands have the resources to help waterfowl thrive through every season of their life.
Canada Geese pair and their goslings in Sackville NB. Photo by Claire Johnson.
The relationship between wetlands and waterfowl is far from one-sided. Waterfowl also provide benefits to wetlands that help keep them healthy and allow them to continue serving their ecological roles. One of the ways that waterfowl help is by acting as biological delivery birds! By visiting different wetlands, they may pick up or deposit biological material from one to the next. This could be insects, plants, fish, frog eggs, or anything else small that may get stuck to a bird’s body or survive in its digestive tract. This helps support wetland biodiversity and increases genetic diversity.
Mother Mallard duck and her ducklings in Sackville, NB. Photo by Claire Johnson.
The distribution of invasive species, on the other hand, poses a threat to the environment. Does this mean waterfowl are harming the environment by promoting the spread of invasive species? No, quite the opposite! Waterfowl can be great biological controls of invasive species, eating invasives like plants and zebra mussels. By simply living their life and eating to survive, waterfowl can help to control invasive species in a way that would take humans a lot of time, effort, and coordination.
The importance of wetlands needs to be emphasized because they have been declining and will continue to decline if nothing is done. They have been destroyed due to the construction of urban expansion, drainage pipes, and resource extraction. There has been the destruction of 70% of wetlands in inhabited areas in Canada, but organizations like the PWA undertake projects to restore and protect these precious resources. It is essential to spread awareness to protect and restore wetlands because if they decline so will the lovely waterfowl that rely on them for survival.
There are many wetlands scattered across New Brunswick that support a wide range of waterfowl. For example, the Wetland Trail in Salisbury NB offers visitors easy access to beautiful views of wetlands and waterfowl. The area is used by Ducks Unlimited and the PWA as a living classroom to teach local students about the importance of aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity!
To enter our giveaway, take a picture at Salisbury Wetland Trail, or the nearby Highland Park, tag us, and use #25watershedmoments
Ducks Unlimited Canada. (n.d.). Waterfowl. Retrieved November 28, 2023, from https://www.ducks.ca/our-work/waterfowl/
Ducks Unlimited Canada. (n.d.). What is a wetland?. Retrieved November 28, 2023, from https://www.ducks.ca/our-work/wetlands/what-is-a-wetland/
Rae, L. (2020). Waterfowl at your service: How ducks and geese help our environment. Ducks Unlimited Canada. https://www.ducks.ca/stories/conservator/waterfowl-at-your-service/