Levitation Quackery

A pretty widgeon.

Ah, oddball vocabulary: the wages, not of sin exactly, but of reading Regency romances in my teens. This dismissive comment about some young lady stuck in my mind.  The modern equivalent?

Cute, but not too smart.

So when I first saw the lovely ducks at our local community center’s pond — with their beautiful shiny green stripes behind their eyes — I was amused to learn that they were American wigeons.

American wigeon in full sunlightWho knows where the “d” went or, indeed, if their name comes from the same word that I learned as a teenager, but I admit I had my suspicions.  Like most ducks, they didn’t strike me as amazingly bright.

Over the years since our initial acquaintance, however, I have come to appreciate them for more than just their prodigious good looks.  Let’s look at their capabilities.

They fly.

2-photo collage of American wigeons in short-haul flightThey don’t run into each other, whether it’s the airspace or the pond that’s crowded.  Or both.

Several American pigeons in flightAmerican wigeons in water and in airAnd they levitate.

Huh?

Well, what would you call it?  They magically get from here . . .

American wigeons in pond, at base of wall . . . to here . . .

4-photo collage of American wigeons

. . . faster than the eye can see and with no external aids.

Sometimes it looks a little iffy; sometimes it looks like a belly flop. But up they get, every time.

2-photo collage of American wigeons landing on pond retaining wallHow do they do it?  Beats me:  Now they’re in the water, now they’re on the wall.  But photos show two strategies.

Some get airborne: You know, they fly.  As ducks have evolved to do.  Different individuals launch from different distances, exploding off the water and then touching down up top.

Collage of American wigeons launching off waterOthers walk the wall, more or less like the Navy recruits in An Officer and a Gentleman, but without the rope.  Or the yelling.  They just Walk. The. Wall.  Straight up.

3-photo collage of American wigeons walking up a pond wall

4-photo collage of American wigeons levitating out of pondI dunno.  It looks a lot like levitation to me.

 

8 Comments

  1. Jim Taylor

    Maybe they’re related to cats. Cats have those powerful hindquarters that can launch them halfway up a tree. Perhaps some ducks develop a more powerful kick that launches them out of the water. Granted, water is a more yielding substance than soil, but if ducks can paddle, I’d assume they can also kick.
    Jim T

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – Parallel evolution, perhaps? Ducks and cats, I mean. The taking-to-flight action is quick enough (and usually far enough way) that I find it hard to see all the body parts involved. That’s where the camera helps – even a fuzzy shot shows the feet going like mad to help achieve liftoff.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Judith – Hurray, a convert to the levitation theory! They were exceedingly difficult to photograph – getting my settings right, and then having enough light to make them work.

  2. How delicious that blue, wavy water and green grass appear. Lucky wigeons! The vision of birds that met my view today was composed of 13 wild turkeys hunting futilely around the large spruce in our yard, then filing solemnly up a long, snowy hill.

  3. John Whitman

    Isabel – more great pictures of a subject I hadn’t thought much about. In the summertime, I often see mallards “levitating” from the water to the grass at one of the ponds along the Rideau Canal. Come this summer, I will pay closer attention.

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