Monday, January 25, 2021

5 Minutes in Nature: Diving for dinner

Ring-Necked Duck Diving, Magnuson Park, Seattle

I suspect for most people, ducks are the first wild creatures they remember encountering. Ducks are everywhere and some species, like the mallard, don’t show much fear toward people — probably because we have a reputation for tossing bread at them.

We now know we shouldn’t give them bread. It’s like junk food for them, making them feel full without giving them the nutrients they need. But it’s still fun to watch them feed. Take five minutes to study them.

This is part of my 5 Minutes in Nature project — a series of activities that are designed to help you relax and better appreciate the natural world a few minutes at a time. When doing these activities, try to concentrate fully on the experience. Put your smartphone away. Try note to take pictures until after your five minutes are up.

For this activity, head to a nearby pond if you can keep your distance from others and if your local Covid-19 restrictions permit doing so. Stormwater retention ponds also tend to attract ducks and one of those may be even closer. Once there, simply appreciate the beauty of bobbing and diving for food.

One of the best parts about doing this activity in the winter is that you’re likely to find a much greater variety of ducks and there is surprising variety in how they feed. Mallards seem to tip over, their rear-ends bobbing above the surface while they try to reach aquatic plants.

You may see other ducks — the ring-necked duck winters on the ponds near me — that actually dive. You can see them stretch their necks and then plunge down into the water to reach food that’s deeper. Other waterfowl, like grebes, leap out of the water before diving to get at food that’s deeper yet.

Red-Necked Grebe Diving, Puget Sound, Washington
Red-Necked Grebe Diving, Puget Sound, Washington

If you ever get tired of watching ducks as the nearby pond, you can also try going to a fishing pier. There are even more ducks that like to feed in large bodies of water, particularly just past the waves where things smooth out.

I hope this activity gives you five minutes of peace. Feel free to share your observations in the comments.

(Follow Kevin Ebi's photography on Facebook or Instagram. Prints of his images are available through

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