It’s raining ducks?!

Monday, November 16, 2020

If you happened to be driving around the Cherokee area last Monday evening or Tuesday morning, you may have noticed ducks and possibly other migrating fowl in unusual places. Why all of the ducks?

When it comes to migration, many of us instantly recall learning in elementary school about birds and their journey south. There are many different kinds of animals that migrate like whales, caribou, monarch butterflies, bats, and, the most memorable, birds.

They all migrate for the same reasons, but mostly because when winter hits their food source goes away. Some birds will fly without rest to their migration destination while others will take their time, stopping to rest and feed along the way, like these ducks now in question. Migrating birds tend to travel during certain weather conditions so they don’t have to use as much energy.

So what happened on Monday night and Tuesday morning that caused it to rain ducks? Well, these ducks (and probably various other birds) were traveling near the fast-moving cold weather front that struck NW Iowa and were forced out of the sky in large numbers due to the poor weather conditions (rain, freezing rain, ice, and snow). This is referred to as a “fallout.” Unfortunately, they confuse our wet and icy paved roads as waterways. They land thinking they are looking at water and are probably surprised when they land on a solid, not a liquid, surface. There, they can become “sitting ducks” for unaware motorists.

Not all ducks are made to walk well on land. There are two kinds of ducks, divers and dabblers. Dabblers are the ones that put their head under water to find food and stick their butt up in the air. Divers are the ones that dive underwater to find food, so their legs are further back on their body to assist with diving. Walking on land is not a diver’s forte. Often they cannot walk well on land and have problems taking off for a new location. If you find them, they’ll look injured because they’re not walking, but just take them to water.

An event like this is not an anomaly, it happens more often than you think. If you’re into history, I recommend reading about the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940. Duck hunters were amazed at the number of ducks falling from the sky.

Of course grounded ducks and other migrating fowl forced to land on our highways is not a good thing for the ducks or unaware motorists, as some of the birds are struck by vehicles and killed or injured, as was the case earlier this week.

All because of the weather.

(Laura Jones is the Naturalist for the Cherokee County Conservation Board. She will be writing a column for the CT periodically to offer our readers “the inside on the outside” of activities, experiences, and events involving the CCCB and the great outdoors. Contact her at cccblaura@gmail.com, or 629 River Rd, Cherokee, IA 51012, or phone 712-225-6709, or visit on Facebook!)

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