I was fortunate enough to catch this happy pair of mallards in my lens on Sunday at the lake in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. They were just gorgeous and the male was in full breeding plumage. He also was extremely attentive to his mate which made them a real pleasure to watch and enjoy.
The handsome Mallard Anas platyrhynchos is the best known wild duck in the world. The male in breeding dress is unmistakable. The glossy head and upper neck are brilliant green, separated from the rich chestnut of the breast by a white collar. The rest of the underparts and the sides are light grey.
The back and wings of the bird are grayish brown, with a purplish-blue speculum, or wing patch, on the wing. The whitish tail has black above and below it. Two central black feathers that curve back above the tail give the breeding male its characteristic curly-tailed appearance. The male has a yellow bill and orange legs and feet.
The female Mallard is a much less colourful bird. Its back is mottled brown, its breast heavily streaked with buff and darker brown. It is best recognized by the white-bordered speculum on the wing, which is similar to that of the male. The female has an orange bill, sometimes blotched with black, and its legs and feet are orange.
Signs and sounds
The female Mallard’s call is a loud quack-quack similar to that given by farmyard ducks. The call of the male is a softer, low-pitched rehab-rehab.
Habitat and habits
Mallards are one of the first ducks to arrive back on the breeding grounds in spring. They are adaptable and may nest near a lake, pond, river, or even woodland pool. Their preferred habitats, however, are the natural grasslands that surround little reed-ringed sloughs, or marshy areas, and potholes on the prairies.
Even in the heart of many major cities, half-tame Mallards waddle ashore from park lakes to take food from the hands of visitors.
The Mallard is a typical member of the surface-feeding group of ducks, known as the dabblers. It is often seen in the tipped-up position with its tail held vertical. Although the bird can dive in an emergency, it rarely does so.
The Mallard is famed as a game bird throughout its range. Fast on the wing, it is readily attracted by decoys and its flesh is of excellent quality. Large male Mallards may weigh well over 1.36 kg, but the average weight is around 1.24 kg. No duck is more extensively hunted: in Canada, over 50 percent of all ducks killed are Mallards.
Distribution of the Mallard
The Mallard is distributed throughout North America, Europe, and Asia and has been introduced to many other parts of the globe. It is found across Canada but is most numerous in the prairie provinces. Mallards have recently been spreading eastwards and are firmly established in New Brunswick along the St. John River. Mallards are rare in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, being replaced there by the closely related American Black Duck. Mallards have also spread north into boreal, or northernmost, forest zones in eastern Canada and along the James Bay and Hudson Bay lowlands.
Mallards are hardy ducks, wintering regularly in southern Ontario and southern British Columbia. Some will remain as far north as they can find open water. Even in Alaska, some birds are found throughout the colder months, and in Alberta, Mallards stay on the open waters of the North Saskatchewan River as far north as Edmonton.
The great majority, however, migrate to the central and southern United States, where lakes and ponds are ice-free throughout the year. Mallards are essentially freshwater ducks, although some may winter on coastal bays.
Taken with Canon Rebel XSI Lens Sigma 55-200