Bird Pictures: Mallard Ducks
Bird Behaviour: Mating Male Mallards
This photo journal brings to light one of the less pleasant aspects of birdwatching. The world of nature is not always pretty and some people might find some of these duck pictures upsetting. However, they are an excellent depiction of mallard duck behaviour during the mating season.
There are far more male mallards than female and their imperative is to mate - full stop. That makes it hard on the females who are constantly harried by males throughout the breeding season.
The males also have a built-in imperative to be THE male that fertilizing a female's eggs. Unlike many birds, mallards do not mate for life or even for a season. There are exceptions of course, Smudge the little white duck has the same mate every year. That doesn't stop him trying to mate with other females or other males trying to mate with her.
What they do, is, when they have mated with a female they stay close to her and try to chase away any other males. They are trying to protect the passing on of their genes and only their genes.
All of this leads to squabbles, lost feathers and a lot of noise.
Male and Female Mallard Ducks
The female mallard duck
When the female is being pursued by one or more males, there is a lot of quaking. She will try to stay close to the male that she mated with last. Because males grab hold of the back of the female's neck to control them for mating, the female will tuck her head in trying to protect her neck and give the male less chance to establish an unbreakable hold.
A surprising number of birds stick to one mate but the mallards are far from monogamous probably because there are so many more males than females.
Identifying Wildfowl - Waterfowl
There are literally thousands of different water birds so any help you can get is always welcome. For those of you in the US - this is a great book full of color photos.
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UK Wildfowl Book
- Wildfowl: An Identification Guide to the Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World (Helm Identification Gu
Wildfowl: An Identification Guide to the Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World (Helm Identification Guides) eBook: Steve Madge, Hilary Burn: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store Posted by Amazon affiliate
Two male mallards: one female mallard
Down on the canal, there are two competing male mallards. One had a completely brown head which makes him quite distinctive. These two males appear to be mated to the same female. Not that she seems happy about it. She will stay close to the one that mated with her last, seeking his protection from the other. But it varies day to day which is the dominant male.
These duck pictures show my observations of this bird behaviour.
Pictures of Mallard Ducks
Five male mallards against one female
More upsetting is the way a gang of males can chase a loan female. Below is a record of one incident when a pretty pale gold-coloured female is harried by no less than five males. She does a great job of escaping but is eventually overcome by sheer numbers.
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When are the females safe?
You might be wondering when the females are safe from pursuit, the answer is only on the nest and that when it is very well hidden. Even after her eggs have hatched and she is caring for ducklings, she will still be a target. Indeed, it is not unknown for male mallards to kill young chicks that are not their own.
Mallards can have more than one brood a year and if you see abandoned chicks around, it probably indicates that the female has been mated again and is one the nest. It is sad to see but the chicks are fairly independent right away and if they can stay clear of predators, have a fair chance of survival. It isn't usual to see abandoned chicks try to join other broods but they are usually chased away.
It's a hard life being a bird!
Pictures of birds by wildlife photographer AnnMackieMiller
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All the duck pictures shown here are copyright to AnnMackieMiller, 2011. They are in low resolution, which means they cannot be blown up any larger without losing pixelisation. This is to prevent theft.
However, copies of these and all wildlife photography by this photo journalist, are available in high resolutions electronic copies for a small fee. They can be used for blogs and website but not on products, these being reserved by the photographer. Contact her for details.
© 2011 annmackiemiller
It would be nice if you left a note to say you called. Thanks
BarbaraCasey on April 27, 2015:
We had a mallard "meat market" on our lake not long ago. Usually our tiny lake houses only a few ducks, but it was a madhouse during mating season. Quite eye-opening, after watching ducks serenely paddle around the lake for the months before that.
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on April 13, 2015:
We have a bird sanctuary not far from where I live so have a large bird population of ducks and geese constantly flying over. I love seeing them and often in the summer take my grandchildren walking the trails of the bird sanctuary.
annmackiemiller (author) from Bingley Yorkshire England on July 21, 2013:
I'm not sure about it being the original coloring - we had one brown headed one on the canal last year and we have several white ones - it is always worth keeping your eyes for differences.
Dorothy on July 20, 2013:
A few years ago I saw a female mallard with a chocolate-brown head & found an article stating that this coloring was the original for the female mallard & that the change has occurred due to the mallard mating with other breeds. Is this right & what are my chances of seeing another brown-headed mallard female?
annmackiemiller (author) from Bingley Yorkshire England on April 10, 2013:
hopefully he will find his way back to family :)
egamstutz on April 07, 2013:
Been observing a lone Canadian goose grazing along a major highway, for the last 7 days at least. Looks like he has been isolated from the flock. We have observed that happening when one is injured, but this one appears to be healthy, but alone. Sad to see!
albela rahi on June 06, 2012:
beautiful pictures annma..thanks for sharing!! keep writing and photographing!
faye on May 10, 2012:
Thank you for explaining this behavior! I was so upset to witness a female being chased and bitten by two males...in my own backyard. I guess I will accept it as a part of nature.
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on March 25, 2012:
Very nice article and informative.
iamaudraleigh on March 09, 2012:
You take amazing photographs!! Loved "Female mallard duck trying to stick close to the last male she mated with."!
princesswithapen on December 03, 2011:
I agree with Simone's comment. The male mallard ducks sure seem to be a naughty tribe! These are fantastic pictures and you've captured all the right moments. Beautiful hub!
happypuppy on July 29, 2011:
Thanks for sharing these amazing photos! It's fun to read your hub.
Yvonne L. B. from South Louisiana on June 11, 2011:
Wonderful photos. We once raised an orphan Mallard duck that we found wandering in the parking lot of a bank on a busy street. I've never observed them where they lived in great numbers.
Thanks for the insight into their behavior.
Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on May 17, 2011:
What a great hub! I love your descriptions as well as the photos - thanks so much.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 22, 2011:
Poor female ducks =__=
annmackiemiller (author) from Bingley Yorkshire England on April 22, 2011:
thanks very much for these very kind comments, you have no idea how much it means to me that people are enjoying what I do. :0)
LeeWalls from United States on April 21, 2011:
I always try and drop a line on the writers I follow. I really appreciate the time you take in putting your hubs together and the superb pictures you share. Keep up the good work.
JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on April 21, 2011:
Not far from my house there's a river where ducks and swans hang out because people keep feeding them bread. Even the fish pop up sometimes!
I don't know if you have ever witnessed it, but I have seen swans push and hold ducks underwater as if to drown them. I have always noted that birds, in general, are a fighting species.
I have observed Humming Birds, Ducks, Swans, and many other local species. I wish I took pictures of them-I just never seemed to have a camera or the state of mind to take it out quick enough.
I always love finding your Hubs in the Hub Hopper! You are truly a specialist on this subject, a really great writer, and the pictures that you take are priceless! Can't wait to see what's next!