Tropical duck spotted nesting in Ohio for the first time

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Alessandra Kelley

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A black-bellied whistling duck and nine ducklings have been confirmed spotted at a farm pond in north-central Ohio. This isn't the first individual black-bellied whistling duck spotted in Ohio (that was in 2004), but it is the first actual nest.

Normally they are tropical ducks. Before the 21st century the farthest north their range was known to extend was the Rio Grande River valley in Texas.


On September 8, 2022, word emerged about nesting Black-bellied Whistling Ducks nesting on a small farm pond in Wayne County. The landowner, Henry Miller, noticed the ducks on his pond, and quite understandably did not recognize this largely tropical species. A neighbor, Harry Swartzentruber, made the identification, Joe Rabor got the word out, and the rest is history.

This is an exciting record, and probably the first of more nestings to follow in Ohio and elsewhere in the Midwest. Wisconsin has already had a breeding record, in 2020. It'll be interesting to see how this apparent range expansion plays out in the years to come. For now, we can wish the best for the Wayne County brood and hope the lateness of the season does not cause them issues.
 

Helix

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I think invasive is restricted to species that have been introduced by humans and which have a negative impact on native species.

If it's self-introduced, I don't think it can immediately be described as an invasive species. It's doing what cattle egrets did, expanding its range into bigger areas. The same applies to monarch butterflies, which became established in Australia soon after their food plants were planted as ornamentals. (Now the plants are invasive.)

Australia has a self-introduced whistling-duck too -- the spotted whistling-duck from Wallacea and New Guinea, has established itself in a few spots on Cape York Peninsula and around the Daintree area, with occasional forays a bit further south. (I've seen the species in Cairns.)

We're going to see more range expansions from tropical to temperate and temperate to polar areas as things heat up.
 

MaeZe

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Thanks, Helix. I was trying to get my head around why climate migration didn't fit my idea of invasive species.

But that brings up a new concept, as the climate warms and species shift their habitats, we're going to see different versions of species competition.
 
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frimble3

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I think invasive is restricted to species that have been introduced by humans and which have a negative impact on native species.

If it's self-introduced, I don't think it can immediately be described as an invasive species. It's doing what cattle egrets did, expanding its range into bigger areas. The same applies to monarch butterflies, which became established in Australia soon after their food plants were planted as ornamentals. (Now the plants are invasive.)

Australia has a self-introduced whistling-duck too -- the spotted whistling-duck from Wallacea and New Guinea, has established itself in a few spots on Cape York Peninsula and around the Daintree area, with occasional forays a bit further south. (I've seen the species in Cairns.)

We're going to see more range expansions from tropical to temperate and temperate to polar areas as things heat up.
No matter how it gets here, it's only an invasive species once it starts to overwhelm the local flora and fauna. If these ducks live in niches that local ducks don't use, they're a new addition to the landscape. If they start outbreeding native species and pushing them out of their usual habitats, they become 'invasive'.
 

SWest

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No matter how it gets here, it's only an invasive species once it starts to overwhelm the local flora and fauna. If these ducks live in niches that local ducks don't use, they're a new addition to the landscape. If they start outbreeding native species and pushing them out of their usual habitats, they become 'invasive'.
This is my sense of "invasive", regardless of whether a species is introduced or migratory. Climate change is going to shift a lot of critters around.

Someone's niche is often someone else's invasive. Isopods were never considered troublesome in the U.S. Until they started eating food crops where there is no longer winter.
 

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No matter how it gets here, it's only an invasive species once it starts to overwhelm the local flora and fauna. If these ducks live in niches that local ducks don't use, they're a new addition to the landscape. If they start outbreeding native species and pushing them out of their usual habitats, they become 'invasive'.

Point taken, but I think it's a bit more nuanced than that with regard to origin. Range expansion is an old phenomenon and is part of the evolutionary process. Colonisation of islands is a good example of natural range expansion involving multiple waves of different taxa. Sometimes the more recent waves out-compete the previous one; sometimes they sort it out between them with niche differentiation.

Where the problem lies, I think, is that range expansion can be assisted by human activity, in which case it's kinda borderline. In Western Australia, rainbow lorikeets have been introduced as aviary escapees and are causing havoc = inarguably invasive. In Canberra, they used to be visitors but have now become established because of the dense plantings of native trees. I'm not sure how to classify that situation.

Natural range expansion tends to be on the periphery of native ranges, but when people get involved, animals and plants get shifted all over the place -- often a long way from their point of origin.

(I will have to give more thought to this.)
 
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Tiger1b

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I think invasive is restricted to species that have been introduced by humans and which have a negative impact on native species.

If it's self-introduced, I don't think it can immediately be described as an invasive species. It's doing what cattle egrets did, expanding its range into bigger areas. The same applies to monarch butterflies, which became established in Australia soon after their food plants were planted as ornamentals. (Now the plants are invasive.)

Australia has a self-introduced whistling-duck too -- the spotted whistling-duck from Wallacea and New Guinea, has established itself in a few spots on Cape York Peninsula and around the Daintree area, with occasional forays a bit further south. (I've seen the species in Cairns.)

We're going to see more range expansions from tropical to temperate and temperate to polar areas as things heat up.
Our state bird started from Canada, missed that that left toyn in Albukoyky and landed in Hawai’i.

Like many visitors from less blessed climes, the former Canada geese exchanged snow shoesfor rubber slippers, changed their name to nene, then honkingly declared, “screw this migrating crap.”

Well done and aloha, eh!
 

Meg Wilson

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monarch butterflies, which became established in Australia soon after their food plants were planted as ornamentals.
Is that how they developed their taste for eucalyptus? Eucalyptus is one of their preferred food sources now, here in California.
 
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Chris P

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We're going to see more range expansions from tropical to temperate and temperate to polar areas as things heat up.

And into higher altitudes as elevated regions warm. The example of malaria (spread by their mosquito vectors) moving upward in the Mount Kenya region where the disease had been largely absent before due to the colder temperatures is now a classic example in medical entomology circles.
 

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Is that how they developed their taste for eucalyptus? Eucalyptus is one of their preferred food sources now, here in California.

They don't eat Eucalyptus here, as far as I know, only introduced milkweeds. As soon as milkweeds were introduced as garden plants, the monarchs were able to establish as a breeding species. Do they feed on eucs or just use them as roosting spots? ETA: Sorry, I thought you meant the caterpillars. I haven't seen the butterflies feeding on eucs, but I live in an area mostly on non-euc veg.)
 

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They don't eat Eucalyptus here, as far as I know, only introduced milkweeds. As soon as milkweeds were introduced as garden plants, the monarchs were able to establish as a breeding species.
Now wait a minute, y'all plant milkweed as ornamentals??? And your monarchs are so picky they won't eat the eucalyptus? California is just dyin' over here! 🤣

(Seriously, tho, I think you may have it right about the caterpillars vs. the adults. The invasive eucalyptuses here are about the only thing keeping our monarch population alive. Also, an image search shows that there are more attractive varieties of milkweed than what grows in the ditches and vacant lots here.)
 
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Helix

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It's a fascinating story. IIRC, the milkweeds were brought in as curiosities in the 1840s -- and almost immediately after, those prodigious fliers managed to establish themselves here.

Euc flowers are just packed with nectar. When the trees are in blossom, the lorikeets and honeyeaters, gliders and flying foxes, bees, butterflies, and beetles are all over them. The only thing equivalent is the paperbarks. And I think those are invasive in the US too.
 
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frimble3

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Our state bird started from Canada, missed that that left toyn in Albukoyky and landed in Hawai’i.

Like many visitors from less blessed climes, the former Canada geese exchanged snow shoesfor rubber slippers, changed their name to nene, then honkingly declared, “screw this migrating crap.”

Well done and aloha, eh!
Pretty much the exact process followed by many human Canadians. Maybe they followed the geese?
 

Tiger1b

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Where the problem lies, I think, is that range expansion can be assisted by human activity,
Well, we both got cane toads for the same reason. No natural predators land, sea or swimming pool. Even the eggs are poisonous. GDMF things can go seemingly everywhere but up the cane stalks they were imported to patrol.... And they're damn-near indestructible. I heard your Aussie crows have learned how to eat them. Good on 'em.

Interestingly enough, I don't see nearly as many as I did 20 years ago.
 

Tiger1b

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Pretty much the exact process followed by many human Canadians. Maybe they followed the geese?
Pretty sure they here before ever a primate landed. And, yes, we have plenty of Canadians of the human variety as well... Can't believe you guys would leave those gorgeous winters for this awful place.
 
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frimble3

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Pretty sure they here before ever a primate landed. And, yes, we have plenty of Canadians of the human variety as well... Can't believe you guys would leave those gorgeous winters for this awful place.
Gorgeous winters - pretty in pictures, and if you dress warmly and don't have to go out in it! (Tourism agency ads like like rugs.)
We can the people who go down south every winter 'snowbirds'.
I am from the wet and mushy coast, where people live in fear of snow, because we have so little experience of driving in it. Again, pretty enough if you were prepared and braced for it.
 
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Gorgeous winters - pretty in pictures, and if you dress warmly and don't have to go out in it! (Tourism agency ads like like rugs.)
We can the people who go down south every winter 'snowbirds'.
I am from the wet and mushy coast, where people live in fear of snow, because we have so little experience of driving in it. Again, pretty enough if you were prepared and braced for it.
I wouldn’t mind visiting a winter.
 
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frimble3

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I wouldn’t mind visiting a winter.
If you want to see a nice, reliable, Instagram-ready winter, go to Eastern Canada: Quebec or Ontario! BC's North and Interior do have snow and skiing, the Prairies (flat middle of Canada and freezing cold) have lots of snow, but everything I've seen suggests that the East really enjoys the winter!
They have evergreen forests to look pretty in the snow, they have horse-drawn sleighs, resorts with winter activities that don't involve whipping down a hill on skis, Quebec has a winter Festival, with a jolly snowman mascot! (And the old stone city of Montreal must be a postcard picture with the snow on the buildings.)
There is even the 'Hotel de Glace' an ice hotel(insulated, of course)!
Or, for the sturdier folk, winter camping.
 
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Tiger1b

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Sounds wonderful! I haven’t skied for decades.

All the years I lived in Japan, the only snow I experienced was the icky urban variety that just got in the way.
 
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Sounds wonderful! I haven’t skied for decades.

All the years I lived in Japan, the only snow I experienced was the icky urban variety that just got in the way.
Yeah, icky and urban is what Vancouver gets, too. Don't know where you are now, but don't come here for the snow experience!
 
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