by Peter Hanscomb
Say hello to Malcolm the Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos
The mallard , dabbling duck can be found throughout the Americas, Europe and North Africa and has been introduced to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The male birds or drakes have a glossy green head and are grey on wings and belly while the females called hens or ducks are a mottled brown colour all over. Adaptable to almost any wetland environment the Mallard is not only one of the most recognisable ducks , it’s also one of the most widespread. Unlike many waterfowl, mallards have benefited from human alterations to the world. They are a common sight in urban parks, lakes, ponds, and other man-made water features in the regions they inhabit, and are often tolerated or encouraged in human habitat due to their placid nature towards humans and their colourful markings.
The mallard is omnivorous with the majority of the mallard’s diet made up of invertebrates such as beetles, flies, lepidopterans, dragonflies, and caddisflies, crustaceans, worms, together with varieties of seeds and plant matter.Plants generally make up the larger part of a bird’s diet, especially during autumn migration and in the winter, however they have also been known to eat frogs and small birds.
Mallards usually start to form pairs in October and November and remain together until the female lays eggs at the start of the nesting season, which is usually around the end of March. During the mating season both male and female birds can become extremely aggressive, especially the male and will attack other birds to defend their territory and mate. Once the eggs are laid the males usually then join up with other males and leave the females to raise the chicks on her own
The female normally lays between 7-12 eggs. Incubation takes around a month and then the ducklings take another 2 months to develop to a point where they can fly as juveniles. As soon as they are hatched they are capable of swimming and normally stay close to their mother for protection.
Mallards of all ages are prayed on by large fish such as pike, Domestic and feral cats , the Red Fox and large birds of prey like the peregrine falcon. During the breeding season the ducks can be attracted and killed by protective swans. The Mallards predation-avoidance behavior of sleeping with one eye open, allowing one brain hemisphere to remain aware while the other half sleeps is believed to be widespread among birds in general.
Protected by The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
The mallard has been rated as a species of least concern on the Red List of Endangered Species due to an increasing population worldwide. While most are not domesticated, mallards are so successful at coexisting in human regions that the main conservation risk they pose comes from the loss of genetic diversity among a region’s traditional ducks once humans and mallards colonise an area. Mallards are very adaptable, being able to live and even thrive in urban areas which may have supported more localised, sensitive species of waterfowl before development.
Full name, Anas platyrhynchos
Wingspan Upto 95cm
Life expectancy 3 to 4 years
UK population 60-140,000 breeding pairs
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