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Mallard Ducks (Anas Platyrhynchos)
The mallard is the most common, widespread and best-known duck in the British Isle and tamely accepts food from the hand.
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The mallard has followed the example of other successful species-for instance starlings, pigeons and house sparrows by adapting to human-made habitats. They often have great personalities too with plenty of noise, arguments and head bobbing. I once lived on a working farm, with its two small ponds. One female would bring her ducklings in my home and help themselves to the bird food that was stored. If that wasn't enough, the ducks took up residence in the birdbath which was very cute but so funny too.
Many water-birds have declined because of pollutions and the drainage of the marshes have destroyed their natural environment. There seems to be a decline as the years go by but some efforts are being made to reverse os of the habitat destroyed made by man. But the mallard has managed ti outweigh such losses, they seem to adapt well by colonizing artificial lakes and ponds across the country and you may well see a mother and brood walking across the road in your local town or village.
The courtship of the mallard can be seen on any mild winter's day; the birds will start to pair ready for the summer breeding season. Unlike mute swans, ducks only pair up for one season. The female will actively be courted by several at a time and often seems brutal, with the female taking flight followed by a few males. The males will pin her down, holding the back of her neck with his bill and often ending in fights or the female standing her ground and quacking loudly.
The traditional mallard nest site in the wild is in thick undergrowth, nettles, brambles, bracken and heather. The female builds her nest using plant debris, grasses and down feathers plucked from her chest. She will lay 7 - 11 pale bluish-green eggs and will incubate alone. The young become independent at the same time they fledge - about six weeks after hatching.
When nesting off the ground, the female mallard uses little to no nest material because she cannon carry things in her bill. On the ground, however, the duck constructs a shallow cup of such vegetation as it can reach from the nest, pulling and pushing stems and leaves into a circular rim.
The female incubates the eggs for 26-28 days — the young hatch out over a short period - all within 24 hours. Depending on the time of day and the weather, the females will brood them in the nest for several hours, during which their down dries, and they become fluffy and active. Then she leads them off the nest and takes them to the nearest stretch of water where they can find food. The young can run and swim as soon as they leave the nest, and also feed themselves. They are pecking instinctively at any small object. They quickly learn to distinguish between small seeds and insects which are good to eat.
Mallards offer loads of crazy observations, and some will make you think ooch! And others will make you laugh. The males are beautifuly coloured with incadesent colours glimmer in the sunlight and the female less colourful but if you are lucky you will get to see her cute little fuzz balls ducklings.
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