A few weeks ago, I came across a giant group of mallard ducks (with possibly some American black ducks mixed in) while looking for local wildlife with my friend Sharon in the Bangor area. Some were slipping and sliding on the ice at the edge of a stream, while others were swimming in the near freezing water.
After parking the car nearby, I slowly opened my door, trying to be as quiet as possible so not to scare the birds away. Sharon, on the other hand, had seen these ducks before, and she knew that they probably weren’t going anywhere. She walked right up to them and started snapping photos, and as I watched her, I realized that the ducks (which were quacking up a storm) seemed to be moving toward her, not away.
As I joined her beside the stream, one particularly bold female mallard walked so close to me that I had to back up. (To avoid being trampled? Pecked at?) And while mallards aren’t exactly the most exotic or rare bird in Maine, it was thrilling to be able to photograph them so close up, capturing the details in their feathers. Here are some of my photos from that day:
Mallards are perhaps the most familiar duck in North America, but I don’t know much about them, so I decided to look them up. Here are a few cool facts I found on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website about this bird:
- Mallards are “dabbling ducks,” meaning they feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. They almost never dive.
- Mallards can live in almost any wetland habitat, natural or artificial.
- The mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds (everything except the Muscovy duck).
- Mallard pairs are generally monogamous, but paired males pursue females other than their mates. Males court females by shaking or flicking the head side to side, looking over their shoulder, or raising up in the water and flapping their wings. Several males often gather around a female to display. A female encourages a male by nodding her head back and forth or paddling with her head held low.
- Migrating flocks of Mallards have been estimated traveling at 55 miles per hour.
- Mallards, like other ducks, shed all their flight feathers at the end of the breeding season and are flightless for 3–4 weeks.