Cattail marshes like Carney Pond offer essential life-support systems to a diverse array of bird species. For some birds, this pond is a permanent home, while for others it is a place they come to breed, nest and raise their young. It is also a crucial rest spot, where migratory birds find shelter and refuel their energy reserves before continuing a journey that takes them across continents.
Not all bodies of water are equal to birds. Most birds have very particular requirements for their wetland habitats and what makes a pond acceptable differs greatly between types of birds. The essential features of a pond for an individual bird species may include a specific water depth, chemistry or temperature, a type of soil, vegetation and a specific amount of patchiness, and the presence or absence of open water. What is considered food is also species dependant. At Carney Pond, you may see birds forage for vertebrates and invertebrates in wet soil, in the water, amongst the vegetation and some eat the seeds, fruit, leaves or tubers of the plants themselves. In fact, noticing what and where a bird eats can go a long way toward identifying what type of bird it is.
Waterfowl are birds that swim like ducks, geese, and swans. They have webbed feet and waterproof feathers. You can see waterfowl in the Okanagan year-round. Most species of ducks fall into one of two categories: dabblers and divers. If you watch a duck you will likely be able to figure out which one it is.
Dabblers feed in the shallow water near the edge of the pond. You will notice that they either skim food off the surface of the water or tip their tails into the air to graze along the pond bottom or among the submerged plants. These ducks are high precision fliers. They can lift off from and land into small areas. Dabblers frequently sighted at Carney Pond include green-winged teal, mallard, northern pintail, blue-winged teal, cinnamon teal, northern shoveler and gadwall.
Look for divers in the middle of the pond where the water is deeper. You will see them plunge into the water looking for food. Count the seconds until they remerge on the water’s surface. Agile in the water and awkward on the land, these ducks prefer to stay in open water where they have a long enough runway to become airborne. Notice them running on the water, as they gain the speed they need to take flight. The resident divers at Carney Pond include the redhead, ring-neck duck, lesser scaup, ruddy duck and American wigeon.