Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, you knew that it had to happen! Mallards are one of my favorite birds to photograph, and I have already done a post devoted to why I think that they are under rated, and another on their mating habits.
Mallards live in wetlands, eat water plants and small animals, and are social, gregarious, and horny as hell, which may be why this species is the ancestor of most breeds of domestic ducks. Despite our best efforts to destroy their habitat, poison them with our chemical discharges, and shoot them, mallards dug themselves in and refused to die or to flee to more remote locations as other species did.
OK, for habitat, basically, if there’s water, you’ll find mallards. The Mallard inhabits a wide range of habitat and climates, from Arctic Tundra to subtropical regions. It is found in both fresh and salt-water wetlands, including parks, small ponds, rivers, lakes and estuaries, as well as shallow inlets and open sea within sight of the coastline.
The Mallard is omnivorous and very flexible in its foods choice. Its diet may vary based on several factors, including the stage of the breeding cycle, short-term variations in available food, nutrient availability, and inter- and intraspecific competition. The majority of the Mallard’s diet seems to be made up of gastropods, invertebrates (including beetles, flies, lepidopterans, dragonflies, and caddisflies),crustaceans, worms, many varieties of seeds and plant matter, and roots and tubers. In other words, they will eat just about anything.
The Mallard duck can cross-breed with 63 other species and is posing a severe threat to the genetic integrity of indigenous waterfowl.
Mallards usually form pairs (in October and November) only until the female lays eggs at the start of nesting season which is around the beginning of spring, at which time she is left by the male who joins up with other males to await the molting period which begins in June. During the brief time before this, however, the males are still sexually potent and some of them either remain on standby to sire replacement clutches (for female Mallards that have lost or abandoned their previous clutch) or forcibly mate (rape) with females that appear to be isolated or unattached regardless of their species and whether or not they have a brood of ducklings. Wikipedia has a lot more on the sexual proclivities of mallards if you’re interested, including one documented case of “homosexual necrophilia”.
Wikipedia says “A noisy species, the male has a nasal call, and a high-pitched whistle, while the female has a deeper quack stereotypically associated with ducks.” Ha! Spend any time around a flock of mallards you’ll hear a wide array of vocalizations including whistles, several different quacks, gargling or gurgling sounds, and the strange peeps that the males make as they snap their heads up, almost as if they have the hiccups.
Perhaps the oddest fact about mallards is that modern science can not trace their ancestry. Mallard bones rather abruptly appear in food remains of ancient humans and other deposits of fossil bones in Europe, without a good candidate for a local predecessor species.
On to the photos, and I promise to try to limit the number of them, even though they are hams!
That last one proves that mallards have a sense of humor. I heard a quack behind me, turned, and there was that guy headed straight at my head! I pulled up and shot, that photo was shot at 70 mm and not cropped at all, that’s how close he was to me. Then, he landed in the creek next to where I was standing and proceeded to laugh at me for the way that I had jumped when he quacked!
This is number 32 in my photo life list, only 318 to go!
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!