Spring 2017: Twitchy wings?

Here is a riddle I have not been able to find the answer to: why is Quakie twitching her wings?

The first time I noticed her doing this weird wing-twitch was last year, as she was in the process of laying her 2nd nest of eggs for the year (after tragically losing her first brood). I was worried that she was unwell, however she seemed to be fine in all other respects – she was eating well, swimming and grooming herself as usual.

In the article Why Do Birds Twitch Their Wings? from mom.me, it says “In parrots, wing twitching sometimes is a sign of excitement, often related to the urge to breed. If a bird’s wings are twitching rapidly and snugly against his body, his mind is probably in a reproductive zone and not focused on much of anything else at the moment.”

I am not certain parrot or pigeon behaviours have any similarity to duck behaviour especially where wooing or mating is concerned. Quakie does not seem especially excited when twitching her wings (ducks bob their heads when excited), in fact she looks rather bored. Also, if this is meant to woo or attract her mate, Frankie certainly isn’t being moved by it. He is not even looking at her. In any case I think the male is the one who’s supposed to woo the female not the other way around!

Quakie grooming her twitchy wings while Frankie relaxes nearby

Here’s my theory. We know wing twitching helps a duck to thermoregulate. It’s common to see ducks flapping and twitching their wings in summer when the weather is hot. But who’s to say Quakie doesn’t feel warm in the cool springtime weather? Her body is undergoing rapid changes – she is producing one egg per day, each egg weighing some 40g, from her tiny little body (an average wild mallard female weighs only 1.1kg). If she lays a nest of 12 eggs, that would be producing almost half her body weight worth of eggs in 12 days! Her body must be in overdrive and her metabolism is going full throttle. It wouldn’t surprise me she is feeling hot, just like we do when we do intense exercise or activity that increases our metabolism.

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