Today’s featured bird isn’t new to the blog due to the abundance of viewing opportunities we have in the Midwest (and honestly those previous shots of these birds are likely better than this new set but you have to go with what you have). There probably isn’t a body of water of any size where you couldn’t find at least one of these birds hanging out along or paddling around. To say they have North America covered when it comes to regions would be an understatement. Yes, I’m referring to that common yet colorful duck called a Mallard (and yes, you get the head across the body shot)
The good news is the adult male birds (called Drakes) are super easy to identify. Just look for the dull yellow bill attached to a iridescent green head. If you are lucky you can also tell by the iridescent purple blue speculum feathers – although according to Wikipedia they do molt those for a short period of time in the Summer. Now the females are a completely different story. As with many birds, the male displays the fancier coloring where the female remains in the more drab browns. This makes it very difficult to distinguish from the other female species – reason why I always try to take shots of surrounding birds when it comes to females.
“Umm, excuse me, are you taking a picture of my ass?”
“Uh.. no I was shooting that little splashy thing over there, yeah, that splashy thing.”
Left the one above in here because it did show a little bit of the blue on the wings but mainly because it looks like it took a golf ball to the side of the head. My guess is it was minding its own business simply crossing a fairway to bring nourishment to its family just as Linda was blasting a 5 wood out of the rough. Pour duck, another victim of her golf game (Linda 2 – Innocent Waterfowl ZERO).
Hit the link to read a little more about these Drakes.
Unlike the diving Loons from the previous post, these Mallards are dabbling ducks. This means they tip forward into the water and graze off plants and other veggies under the water – note, according to Wikipedia, they are actually omnivorous and supplement with invertebrates – this I have never witnessed – the invertebrate eating that is, I always see their butts sticking out of the water. One thing for sure, there is a lot of variations when it comes to these ducks. Wikipedia explains why this sometimes occurs (let’s just say those without mates tend to look elsewhere). This shot showed some of those variations – thinking the one in the middle may be in the midst of maturing or molting. Their heads show the varying colors that are produced based on what angle they are to the light (the one on the right looks almost purple)
Here is a closer look at the different plumage pattern.
Cornell mentioned these ducks have long been hunted for the table. I am not a hunter myself and tend to stay out of that argument for a few reasons – one being that there is an environmental/conservation purpose for hunting (when well controlled and managed) and of course our eyes are forward and we possess those sharp thingies called bicuspids. These ducks are so populous they can wreak havoc on their own food supplies and considered invasive in such regions as New Zealand and South Africa. Interesting enough, it is not illegal to raise Mallards in the US other than Florida – they are trying to protect their native Mottled Duck (remember that variation issue I mentioned earlier?)
From a photographer’s perspective, these birds are fairly easy to photograph likely due to their population and numerous encounters with humans – find someone throwing food to birds by the water and you’ll have plenty of Mallards to take pictures of. Not much else beyond I heard they can play hockey up in the Quad Cities – clearly they are VERY adaptable.
See you soon, I have to get the quack out of here.