Visiting at the Estuary Now, An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and the DigIB Bird Of The Week, The Mallard
Mar 14, 2019 01:37PM
By Paul Spear
Visiting at the Estuary Now, An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the "Mallard"The Mallard
This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), also known as the “wild duck”, a dabbling duck. Abundant over most of the northern hemisphere, the Mallard is the most familiar wild duck to many people, and the ancestor of most strains of domesticated ducks. In many places this species has managed to domesticate itself, relying on handouts in city parks. Although barnyard and feral ducks may be dumpy and ungainly creatures, the ancestral wild Mallard is a trim, elegant, wary, fast-flying bird.
They are still one of the most abundant ducks in the world. Numbers fluctuate considerably, and population of northern Great Plains is probably permanently reduced from historical levels. Status of wild birds is clouded by a large number of feral populations.
Habitat is in marshes, wooded swamps, grain fields, ponds, rivers, lakes, bays, and in city parks, and may occur in any kind of aquatic habitat, but they favor fresh water at all seasons; found only sparingly on coastal waters, and mainly in winter on sheltered bays and estuaries. Mallards are most abundant in summer on prairie potholes and in semi-open country north of the prairies. Mallards are most abundant in winter on swamps and lakes in the lower Mississippi Valley.
Mallards forage in water by dabbling, submerging head and neck, up-ending, and rarely by
diving; foraging on land by grazing, plucking seeds, or grubbing for roots.
Mallards are omnivorous. The majority of their diet is plant material, including seeds, stems, and roots of a vast variety of different plants, especially sedges, grasses, pondweeds, smartweeds, and many others; but they also eat acorns and other tree seeds, and various kinds of waste grain. Mallards may also eat insects, crustaceans, mollusks, tadpoles, frogs, earthworms, and on small fish. Young ducklings may eat mostly aquatic insects.
After mating, females lay 7-10, sometimes 5-15, whitish to olive buff eggs. Incubation is by females, in about 26-30 days. Young leave their nest within a day after hatching, are led to water by females. Young are tended by females but feed themselves. Age at first flight is in about 52-60 days. Mallards yield 1 brood per year, perhaps rarely 2.
Pairs form in fall and winter. Displays of males include dipping bills in water and then rearing
up, giving whistles and grunt calls as they settle back on water; raising heads and tails while giving sharp calls; plunging the forepart of their bodies deep in water and then flinging up water with their bills. Females, accompanied by males, seek and choose sites for nests. Nesting sites may be more than 1 mile from water; usually on ground among concealing vegetation, but may be on a stump, in a tree hollow, in a basket above water, and various other possibilities. Nests are a shallow bowl of plant material gathered at the site, and lined with down.
I spotted several Mallard couples in our own Tijuana Estuary recently. Look for this species and the many other birds that feed and breed there. Until next week, happy birding!
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