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Travels and Traditions of Waterfowl

Travels and Traditions of Waterfowl

H. Albert Hochbaum
Copyright Date: 1955
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Travels and Traditions of Waterfowl
    Book Description:

    With the combined talents of naturalist, writer, and artist, H. Albert Hochbaum captures the varying moods of earth and sky and spirit of flight. For many years as director of the Delta Waterfowl Research Station in Manitoba, Canada, he has observed the ways of the waterfowl. In this book he portrays and discusses the flights and habits of the birds he has watched in the vast marsh country - the wild ducks, geese, and swans of North America._x000B_This book is the winner of a publication award of the Wildlife Society. It is recommended by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in its AAAS Science Book List for Young Artists.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5547-2
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    William Rowan and H. A. H.

    The migration of birds has doubtless fascinated the mind of man throughout history. Certainly the artists of the Altemira Caves must already have been interested, since their drawings include migratory species. Practically all over the world some favorite winter absentee is welcomed back as the harbinger of spring upon its annual return. To Albert Hochbaum, author of this book, living on his Manitoba marsh, it is the Canada Goose and the Whistling Swan that constitute the first tangible guarantee that spring is on its way back, no matter what the frozen lake may be doing at the time or how...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Part I. Travels of Waterfowl

    • 1 Patterns of Local Movement
      (pp. 3-13)

      LISTEN! . . . No, it’s only the wind.

      “But listen!Quiet, Tim, you fool hound-dog.” No, it is only the children at their game.

      “Listen! . . .No, it is nothing at all.” A heavy black cloud hangs in the west; through a rift the sun bathes the marsh in gold. The evening flight has begun; small parties of ducks lift from the bay, flying into the northwest. The tall poplar by the channel is dark with a thousand blackbirds creaking and tinkling.

      “Listen, listen!. . . Yes, it is the swan!The Whistling Swans are back!”...

    • 2 Learned Response to the Environment
      (pp. 14-28)

      The system of aerial trails about a duck marsh is evidence that waterfowl react positively to their environment. What is behind this response to their surroundings? Is this rigid, set, innate behavior? A downy Canvasback less than a day old benefits from neither past experience nor parental guidance when it first takes to water; it swims without an intervening period of learning. Thenceforward throughout its life as a duckling and as an adult, its activities are directed primarily toward its aquatic world. In flight the duck’s movements are physically unbounded; it is free to go where its wings might take...

    • 3 The Visual World
      (pp. 29-45)

      There ducks of the Delta Marsh use their environment in an orderly fashion; there is a pattern to their travels. They learn to follow the arrangements of land and water, reeds and willows, that make every corner of this marshland different from any other part of the world. The duck accommodates itself to the environment that meets the eye; it learns the places in its world by seeing them; its local orientation depends upon eyesight. A clue to the importance of sight is to be found in the size of the avian eye. One is misled by outward appearances, for...

    • 4 The Function of Memory
      (pp. 46-54)

      The ducks of the Delta Marsh move familiarly within an environment they have learned. Some have been hatched there, learning their place in ever increasing spans. Others have been reared elsewhere, arriving at Delta in summer or fall. When flying from one place to another for feed, rest, or grit, these residents travel over country that is familiar through the experience of use; but no matter how broad or narrow the local experience, there must always come a time for departure from the northland. Some juveniles disperse from their natal range soon after taking wing. After the midsummer molt, many...

    • 5 The Aerial Environment
      (pp. 55-72)

      The aerial environment is the medium of transportation to ranges far and near, a haven in the face of enemies, the source of companions. The sky is the realm of weather, the place of sun and moon, a shroud of darkness, the home of the wind.

      On land or water the duck is ever aware of air as a force. It obeys the pressure of the moving air mass by facing the wind. Ducks napping on the Station pond are sensitive to the wind’s strength and must paddle with the feet, even as they repose, to keep from being blown...

    • 6 Awareness of Time and Space
      (pp. 73-86)

      As waterfowl come and go from one part of the marsh to another, there is a regularity in their daily travels. We men have formed the habit of dividing the day into hours of the clock, but birds have no such artificial regulator. The break of dawn is the beginning of the waterfowl day. How well the hunter knows this! Dawn is the wildfowler’s joy. No matter how quiet the night or how calm the day that follows, morning twilight brings a flurry of activity to the marsh. Most precise are the Mallards, which leave their shorelines for the stubble...

  5. Part II. Migrations of Waterfowl

    • 7 The Cycle of Migration
      (pp. 89-94)

      There come unforgettable evenings in late August when a soft calm settles over the marsh. The breeze is spent and the reeds duplicate themselves in perfect reflection. The sky is clear, yet with sundown comes a refreshing chill. The tinkle of water from the canoe paddle and the rustle of a wren in the tules are the only sounds. Here is the world as God made it. Deep in the heart of the wheatland is a pristine wilderness that can differ little from that so loved by the native Cree. This might be the marsh as seen two centuries ago...

    • 8 Flight Trails South
      (pp. 95-113)

      The sunrise of October 11, 1951, was bright and cloudless. Art Paulson sat in the bow with his gun across his knee while I watched from the stern. There was not a breath of wind. Reflections without a mar. The only birds were a few late bluewings returning now and again to the reeds. Shortly after seven o’clock we saw a band of ducks coming out of the northwest so high that they appeared only as a thread in the sky. More followed, and during the next fifteen minutes we counted twenty flocks. Suddenly the calm broke. Without so much...

    • 9 Homeward Migration
      (pp. 114-134)

      A small platform rises above the north shore of Cadham Bay, and another railed perch overlooks the marsh from the top of Kirchoffer Lodge. Spring evenings we wait at these lookouts to watch the parade of waterfowl leaving Delta in migration. A few ducks, perhaps, will reach their destinations before the last tinge has left the sky, but for many others the evening’s flight is but another step in the long journey home. It is eighteen hundred miles from Delta to the mouth of the Mackenzie River, where some must go.

      The departure in the heaviest passages of spring occurs...

    • 10 The Classification of Waterfowl Travel
      (pp. 135-148)

      Our word “migrate” comes from the Latinmigrafus,the past participle ofmigrare:“to move from one place to another.” It lacks the element of permanent settlement carried in the word “emigrate” and is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “to pass or remove from one region or district to another for temporary residence.”

      Most of us think of migration as the spring and autumn sweep of birds to and from their nesting ranges. Many authors, however, have used the word with reference to other travel occurring between the two main passages. The literature is thus sometimes confusing; ornithologists seem not...

    • 11 The Dimensions of Travel
      (pp. 149-162)

      The problems of avian migration are often approached from the standpoint of human experience; gauged thus, the enigma of orientation is insurmountable. A major barrier to objective thinking about migration seems to be the great distances that birds travel, distances that we apprehend as human travelers. We have an understanding of a bird’s movements about the narrow limits of its home range, but its manner of orientation in migration is unknown. Rowan (1947) has explained that “when a flicker or a bluebird returns from the south year after year to the same nesting box, there is no essential difference between...

    • 12 The Influence of Bad Weather
      (pp. 163-176)

      There persist some hallowed legends about migration carried from one generation to the next until by the authority of age they live unquestioned. One such is a belief that migrant birds are able to navigate through fog to their destinations. Lincoln (1950b) tells us that “we know that vision is not the sole reliance as some birds fly unerringly through the densest fog.” He cites the observation of Cooke (1915), made when the latter was on a steamer “en route from Unalaska to Bogoslof Island in the Bering Sea, proceeding cautiously through fog so dense as to blot out all...

    • 13 Overseas Migration
      (pp. 177-185)

      It is one thing to measure the flight of a duck from Delta, Manitoba, to Lake Christina, Minnesota, and yet quite another to appraise the migration of Pintail, Shoveller, and other waterfowl from North America to the Hawaiian Islands. The shortest distance to the first landfall is at least 2,000 miles over the unbroken ocean, a passage equal to a flight from Delta to central Mexico. The first step in studying such overseas migrations is to quantify the flight distance in terms relative to the movement of man, the puzzled observer. In doing this it is only fair to use...

    • 14 Magnetic and Radio Fields
      (pp. 186-191)

      Since the twelfth century man has depended so on the compass that some students quite naturally have attempted to explain the homing of birds as a biological awareness of the magnetic pole (Viguier, 1882). Thomson (1942: 176) points out that “no evidence of any magnetic sense has ever been obtained, however, despite a good deal of experiment.” Rowan (1931: 84) remarks that “magnetic sensibility is an intriguing hypothesis, but the best we can say for it is that it never has been disproved. There is no evidence in its favor.” Griffin’s attempts (1944: 25) “to train three homing pigeons to...

    • 15 Awareness of Direction
      (pp. 192-214)

      The manner in which birds find their way in migration is one of the oldest mysteries to mankind. With each migrant is the secret, discoverable because it is there, yet undiscovered. Many like to believe this ability stems from a special sense — a “sixth sense,” writes Chapman (1916: 138), that “has been called a sense of direction. The sense of sight we know to exist in the eye, and the sense of hearing in the ear, and in the nerves leading from these organs to the brain. But no one knows where the sense of direction is situated.”

      While a...

  6. Part III. Traditions of Waterfowl

    • 16 Biological Traditions
      (pp. 217-226)

      In the summer of 1951 a crate of young Pin-tails traveled to New York State by rail. These ducklings had been hatched at Delta from eggs taken from wild nests in nearby stubble and meadowland. They were half-grown when they left Delta and had seen no countryside beyond the narrow view from the hatchery window. Their travels ended in central New York, where they were banded and released on Spicer’s Marsh. Next spring, a survivor of the first autumn and winter, identified by her leg band, migrated back from the southland to nest and rear her young on Spicer’s Marsh....

    • 17 Building New Traditions
      (pp. 227-236)

      To the Mission San Juan Capistrano, in California, come Cliff Swallows each March, returning to build their gourdlike nests under the Mission’s eaves. The pastor, the Reverend Vincent Lloyd-Russell, wrote me that the pioneer swallows first took residence on the buildings in 1776. Originally, the Cliff or Eave Swallow was confined in its nesting to natural features of the land such as cliffs and overhanging walls. With the coming of civilization, the structures of man offered ideal nesting situations; barns and other buildings were quickly accepted so that, as Bent (1942: 465) points out, the swallows “multiplied and spread from...

    • 18 Tradition and Racial Isolation
      (pp. 237-242)

      On every hand is evidence that groups of animals isolated from each other will vary. Poultry, cattle, and hunting dogs divided into their many domestic varieties by the artificial isolation of selected breeding stock. In the same way, many kinds of barnyard ducks have stemmed from the wild Mallard. Similarly, over a vastly greater period of time, natural isolation has divided many species of wild animals into distinct races; and it was this that gave Darwin his inspiration concerning the pattern of evolution. Before Darwin a species was generally believed to be a distinct creation, with the specific characters showing...

    • 19 Broken Traditions
      (pp. 243-258)

      The Passenger Pigeon is gone beyond recall. Oaks live whose branches held their nests; much of the pigeon environment on earth; but the last pigeon is long since dead.

      The Canada Goose is a living part of our native fauna, a passage migrant with numbers strong enough to give the modern hunter a share in the annual harvest. On part of its range, however, it is as dead as the Passenger Pigeon. Many regions of the United States and Canada once knew the clarion call of the goose on its breeding territory. It bred in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa (Cooke,...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-283)
  8. Nomenclature of Birds
    (pp. 284-288)
  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 289-292)
  10. Index of Authorities
    (pp. 293-294)
  11. Subject Index
    (pp. 295-301)