Mallard

There has been a pair of mallards seen on the big pond during the week.

Mallards pair up during the autumn and stay together throughout the winter. At this time of year they might already be looking for a nest site but, while it would be nice to have resident ducklings, we doubt this pair will find the park to be suitable: not enough cover near the water and too many dogs.

The female usually lays her eggs between the beginning of March and the end of July, in a nest of reeds and grasses, lined with down plucked from her breast. A full clutch can be as many as twelve or thirteen eggs laid at one or two day intervals; after each egg is laid, she covers the nest carefully to hide it from predators.

Egg-laying is a very stressful time for the female; she will lay more than half her body weight in eggs in a couple of weeks. Her mate will  guard her, her resting places and her nest site while she is laying and for a week or so after she begins brooding her eggs. Then he leaves her to join one of the gangs of single males that roam our waterways in the spring looking for unattended females.

The eggs do not begin to develop until the clutch is complete and the female begins to incubate full time. She broods them for a period of twenty eight days, leaving the nest only briefly to eat and stretch. Despite being laid at very different times, the eggs will all hatch in a single twenty four hour period.

Photographs of adult mallards by Suzanne Humphries; picture of ducklings (CC0) from pixabay.com

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