Mallard ducks are now so common in our area that they can be found just about anywhere there is water. But it was not always so. When I was a small boy living in eastern Ontario, Mallards were seldom seen and when they were, they were referred to as “western ducks”. The most bountiful wild duck we had at the time was the American Black duck, a close relative of the Mallard. Now we see few “Blacks” and lots of Mallards. Both however are very beautiful birds.
Mallards are the wild duck from which many of our domestic ducks originated.
Mallard males and females form partnerships in October and November and stay together until the ducklings hatch the following spring. Males will then leave the family and team up with other males to form small groups, leaving all family responsibilities to the female.[wc_row][wc_column size=”one-half” position=”first”]
Females will search out rather secluded locations as far away as possible from predators to build their shallow nests. They have been known to build nests on roof tops, and small spaces in the most unbelievable locations. At York University where I spent most of my career, we had a temporary office building with inner courtyards, constructed that way to give all offices a small window. Each year, a female Mallard would fly into one of the courtyards and build her nest and incubate her eggs within view of perhaps 30-40 people in their offices.[/wc_column][wc_column size=”one-half” position=”last”]
“Known as dabbling ducks,
they tip upside down
in the water, where they
feed on plant life
and other aquatic life.”[/wc_column][/wc_row]
The enclosed courtyard provided protection for her and her treasured eggs from predators. As soon as the eggs hatched and the precious ducklings began to imprint on their mother, someone in an office would open a door leading to the interior of the courtyard office area and mother mallard would lead her young down the hall to an open exterior door, much to the delight of 50-70 wide-eyed on lookers. Sadly in some way, that building was demolished to give way for the construction of a major stadium to host the 2015 Pan Am games.
Females will lead their precocious chicks to the nearest water, be it a small creek, pond or lake. Known as dabbling ducks, they tip upside down in the water, where they feed on plant life and other aquatic life. It is a very dangerous time for the young chicks as they are frequently taken by hungry large fish and turtles as well as various species of birds and mammals. By the time they are ready for their first flight, family groups frequently are reduced to half or less of their original size. Then comes hunting season and a long migration!
During spring and summer, look for Mallards close to shore in lakes, ponds or even your backyard swimming pools!
Written by David A. Homer.