Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos)

I spent the last week and a half in England, and while I was there I kept my eyes peeled for any strange wildlife I could possible write about. Unfortunately, English wildlife is quite similar to Canadian wildlife, at least from what I saw (which wasn’t much). Still, there were a pair of adorable mallard ducks that caught my eye in Cambridge, so I’ve decided to feature them in this post.

Mallard ducks are one of the most common ducks in the world. They can be found all across the Northern Hemisphere, and in parts of the Southern Hemisphere, especially during winter when they migrate south.  Mallards are extremely versatile birds, living in arctic tundra to subtropical regions, in salt and freshwater, and in cities and in wilderness.

A female mallard in the sunny waters of Cambridge.  Photo credit: Me.

A female mallard in the sunny waters of Cambridge.
Photo credit: Me.

Probably everyone in the world knows what a mallard duck looks like – the males have those pretty green heads and bright yellow beaks, while the female is much more drab. One thing I didn’t know is that both sexes of mallard have a patch blue feathers on their wings, which are called speculum feathers. Mallards are medium sized birds, reaching 50-65 cm in length, with a wingspan of up to 98 cm.

A drake with his pretty green head.  Photo credit: I took this one!

A drake with his pretty green head.
Photo credit: I took this one!

Mallard ducks form temporary pair bonds during he breeding season, with courtship occurring in October and November. Once the female lays her eggs, the male leaves, either to find more females to mate with or to join groups of other males. Male mallards that don’t find mates can be pretty nasty – sometimes a group of males with find an isolated female and harass her until she is too weak to resist, before they take turns mating with her.

A mom duck and her adorable chicks.  Source: Wikipedia

A mom duck and her adorable chicks.
Source: Wikipedia

Aside from having to avoid gangs of awful drakes (male ducks), females are very vulnerable to predation during nesting, as they lay over half their weight in eggs. So she tries to pick a nice safe nesting spot that is either concealed from predators or in a place they can’t reach. She lays 8-13 eggs, which hatch after about a month. Ducklings are able to swim immediately after hatching, which leads to adorable scenes of a momma mallard and her little ducklings swimming in a pond.

I’ve always had fun feeding ducks at ponds, and they make great picture subjects. So though they might not be the most unusual animal I’ve written about, I think they’ve earned the right to a post.

Cover image source: Me!

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