They may be very common, but they’re worth a second look. This is not just for their breeding season plumage, with the glossy, bottle-green head of the male, and the iridescent blue patch on the secondary wing feathers of both sexes. These sociable omnivores are the main ancestors of most domesticated ducks. Their unfussy appetites have helped them thrive, but the bread that well-intentioned people feed them down at the park has very little nutritional value to them, and needs to be balanced with alternatives highlighted on our banner down there. They are so adaptable, in particular in living alongside human populations, that they are considered invasive species in some areas. Mallards can crossbreed with many other species of ducks, producing fertile hybrids, and as a result are said to cause “genetic pollution”, with the risk of extinction of other indigenous breeds. Mallard ducklings are precocial, which means that they are relatively mature and mobile on hatching, though they stay close to mum for warmth and protection and to learn their way round their habitat, especially to food sources. Ducklings and adults face a large number of predators, including foxes, herons, peregrines and pike. As a result they sleep with one eye open and one brain hemisphere awake.
Photo by Pixabay