Mallards, a dabbling duck

Mallards are so common around the Lake as to seem unremarkable. Yet, the breeding success and affability of this duck makes it one of the most delightful birds to watch. Mallards form pairs in the fall and remain together until eggs are laid. The female then looks after the chicks, while the male joins other males and moults to a plumage which makes him look like a female.

mallard coupleMale (left) and female (right) Mallards fly by.

mallard coupleMallards are comfortable in the water.

mallard coupleMallard are comfortable on land.

mallard drakeMallard male, breeding plumage
The well known look of the mallard male is actually only to be seen during the breeding season.

Mallard drake, eclipseMallard male, eclipse plumage in August

At the end of the breeding season, the mallard male molts and, until mid fall, assumes a plumage similar to that of the female.

But, the sexes are distinguishable by the bills. The male’s bill is yellowish while the female’s bill (picture right) is orangish with a dark central patch.

Mallard henMallard hen.

mallard chickA mallard chick has the look of a female.

mallard familyOne only sees the female mallard with chicks. The male leaves when the eggs are laid.

mallard familyChicks can swim immediately, but will not fly for nearly two months.

mallards dabbling Mallards are surface feeders and will often be seen dabbling in the shallows where they will tip up and extend their beaks down to the lake bottom where they rummage around for food.

mallardThe dabbling of mallards often leaves little pits carved out of the lake bottom.

mallardThese dabble pits become visible along the shore during the low water of March and April.

mallard surface feedingPlant material that falls on the lake’s surface will become concentrated in regions of convergence and provide mallards with a good feeding area.

mallard wingsThe easiest way to see the pattern on the wings is when the mallard is flying. Both the male and female (right) have a purplish speculum banded with white.

mallard wingsA female mallard tips back as she prepares to land on the Lake.

mallard When resting, a mallard will often stand on one foot.

mallardWhen it isn't breeding season, the mallard is often quite a sociable bird and will approach humans.

mallardThese mallards have come over to investigate a merlin that has stopped by on a hot day to bath in the Lake.

mallard femaleFrom a distance the female mallard looks rather drab—an camouflage advantage. However, when viewed closely, she reveals intricate feather patterns.

Information from Wikipedia: Mallard.

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