Video Courtship interruptus
As in a majority of bird species worldwide, many duck species do not mate for life: new pairs reform on an annual basis, yet male and female go separate ways shortly after the breeding season. And the gene pool gets constantly reshuffled. Contrary to most migratory birds, however, Shoveler and other waterfowl do not wait until the following spring to find a new mate. They flirt and pair up in the dead of winter, as soon as they reach their wintering grounds. Male and female partners then fly back to their breeding territory the next spring, together. During the NY winter, Shovelers and other ducks can be seen performing all sorts of dance-like figures on the waters of Central Park. Here, a male and female size each other up in a highly ritualized - pas de deux (before being interrupted by a pair of intrusive Mallards). These long bouts of courtship serve to 'evaluate' the opposite sex and synchronize their hormonal flows and intent. The first birds to court are usually the most aggressively competitive males. In some species the males outnumber females and considerable harassment ensues, including 'gang rape' - where multiple, unpaired bachelors will simultaneously try and copulate with the last, unpaired female(s).