A Year on Clear Lake-Feb 22, 2013

Ducking Out–February 22, 2013

This pair of ducks at water’s edge seem to be trying to stay warm against the chilled wind.

I must admit I’ve been guilty of taking ducks for granted– I mean, isn’t a duck just a duck? Well, no, as I have learned since beginning this year long-project–nothing can, or should ever, be taken for granted. Every creature has an interesting story to tell. Mallards are no different.

They begin their courtship in the fall and continue through mid-winter. While they are predominantly monogamous, the males have been known, on occasion,  to pursue a little side action, which might explain why it is the female of the species that quacks loudly, while the males are much quieter. (They know their goose is cooked.)

Once they pair, the couple begins a northward migration back to the female’s place of origin. It is the female of the two who will incubate the eggs and care for the chicks. In the meantime,  the males take off and leave the family behind. After the breeding season and toward the end of summer, the males shed, losing all their flight feathers. This leaves them virtually flightless for 3-4 weeks, and during this time they keep a low profile, all the while sporting an “eclipse” plumage (very similar to the female’s brown coloring) that helps camouflage them.

The oldest known Mallard was 27 years and 7 months.

Who knew?