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You don’t read much about them. They don’t make the headlines. They don’t run for public office, or get caught in financial scandals. Perhaps we humans take them for granted because they’re so familiar. Of course, I’m talking about the Mallard duck, a true cosmopolitan, spectacularly successful in sharing habitats with human beings around the world. It can be found in diverse watery spots, from urban parks to tundra ponds.

The Mallard is the largest of the dabbling ducks. Dabblers don’t dive for food; they up-end in shallow water to reach organic stuff on the bottom, as the photos show.

They’re normally placid creatures, yet after dark when they gather on the pond in a great, round, dense formation, there can be quacking aplenty, and it can go on for hours. What causes the discord? Males competing for females? Or for a place in the pecking order? Or is this a “town meeting” for the airing of grievances?

The male is handsomely turned out in formal plumage during mating season (Oct-May), ready for dining at the most upscale suburban park. The female, of course, stays discretely dressed for sitting unnoticed on her nest.

Mallards winter over in the lower forty-eight, then fly north in the spring to breed in a few northern states and much of Canada. They pair during mating season only; the female raises the ducklings alone. Like most ducks, Mallards are highly social in the nonbreeding season.

According to my bird book, ducks in the wild live only a few years, but among the oldest ducks on record was a Mallard that reached the grand old age of twenty-six.

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2 Responses to Mallards*

  1. Robin Mirollo says:

    I enjoyed reading your piece, Ron. Thanks for a few interesting fact about a common creature that we often take for granted.

  2. Jim Fett says:

    Well done photos and story Ron. They are indeed a familiar neighbor on the pond.

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