Since it is October it makes sense to have a spooky tie-in or Halloween related theme. However, I don't know if the image of "Ducknado", a play off of the SyFy channel's Sharknado, is exactly creepy. Simply put, ducks don't have teeth and so a tornado of blunt billed birds doesn't sound very intimidating. Now the merganser family does have serrated bills. I guess if you were an imaginative director and could put an evil gleam in their eye, packed them in densely enough, and added some dramatic lighting and music a cyclone of "sawbills" could perhaps be somewhat threatening if you were directly in their path.
All that to say, terror and fear isn't really my thing. I prefer topics that are awe inspiring and make me think. "Ducknados" do that. Flight days are something to behold. It can be late in the season with an overcast sky and snow blowing in your face or an early fall day with a cool wind encouraging the oak trees to drop their leaves. There are certain days that the ducks decide to move. As most waterfowl hunters know, it typically occurs with a cold front. Recent research shows that depending upon the species of ducks, this motivation to move with weather varies by species. A fairly predictable pattern for waterfowl movement occurs when you look at the average temperature, number of consecutive days below freezing, the average snow depth, and number of days with snow cover. Mallards, which are later migrants, don't leave until harsh winter conditions usher them south. The triggers for other dabbling ducks like pintails, wigeon, and green-winged teal are not as extreme, which is why we see them fly south earlier in the season.
No matter what the kind of critter, witnessing a mass migration is impressive. Seeing thousands of individuals moving in the same direction with a seemingly collective conscious is enough to make one stop and wonder. Sure, you can see this every now and then on the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet as they highlight zebras moving across the African plain or caribou marching across the Arctic tundra. Or perhaps you've been lucky enough to visit Alaska and see millions of salmon congregate and run up ancient glacial rivers. This kind of experience doesn't just occur in faraway lands; it also takes place here in Missouri. On certain days in the fall, the opportunity to view one of nature's miracles is available for you and me.
It might start as you notice a few birds on the horizon dropping into the marsh. But as you look closer, you realize that it isn't just a few birds. Your gaze starts to follow to where the original ducks were descending from and find another envoy of fowl with wings locked in place. As you look up further, you discover there are more and more ducks falling in a similar manner from the sky on a continuous string. Now that your eyes have adjusted and you are scanning the broader heavens, what you see appears to be a spinning column of waterfowl, like an invisible spiraling escalator guiding them down to that special spot in the marsh. This is what I call a "Ducknado". It is definitely not something to fear, but a special sight to watch and experience.
October is waning and November approaching. Early fall migrating ducks are beginning to build up on Missouri's marshes. As winds come out of the north, birds are beginning to move and it is not just the ducks. Like associated tornadic flying debris, other species of birds including swallows, snipe, sora, and shorebirds are also in the air and may be accompanying a "Ducknado" near you. And while it will depend on the weather as to when the influx of mallards will occur, every fall has the potential for some spectacular flight days in our own backyard. While witnessing a "Ducknado" isn't a common event, you'll never see one unless you go out in the marsh and gaze at the sky every now and then. It is something to behold and enjoy.