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These Are Salt Water Birds?

October 28, 2008

For two mornings in a row I’ve awakened to find birds I’ve always assumed to be fresh water creatures, hanging around outside our bedroom window. First it was a dozen or so Mallards sitting on the pebbly shoreline – the tide was out – who on noticing me at the window quickly made for the calm water of the harbor, where they appeared to be quite at home. 

Ignorant as I am apropos the habits of birds in these parts (and no doubt other parts as well), I have been reading up on some of them and discovered that although Mallards need to nest near fresh water, the adults are able to spend time on the salty kind. And the reason they can do this is because they have salt glands over their eyes that rid their bodies of the excess salt, but ducklings don’t, and salt water can be fatal to them. Who knew.

This morning it was a lone loon quietly swimming along. Did I have any idea that the common loon “hung out” (an ornithological term) around fresh water lakes in the summer and coastal areas in the winter, before I had this blog? Of course not. Now I know that around Puget Sound, in bays and inlets, typically shallow water close to shore, the common loon is not uncommon. In this salty domain it is able to drink the newly fallen rain off the surface of the bay before it mingles with salt water.
Loons also have a pair of salt glands above their eyes which expel salt taken in from seawater. These drip almost constantly during the winter season. 

I’m wondering what bird of a feather is going to show up tomorrow.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Abra Bennett permalink
    October 28, 2008 1:46 pm

    There used to be a gull there that would rap insistently on the sliding doors, begging. If you’re lucky, he’ll favor you with a visit too.

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