Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Erika and I found this Mallard flock (plus one Canada Goose) lounging on Lyman Lake at Carleton College. We were impressed by the contrast in color between the red honeysuckle bushes’ red fruit and the ducks’ bright orange legs. Mallards are the most abundant duck in North America. They are cold-hearty (a good thing if you are going to survive a Minnesota winter) and they become tame when fed by people. Their food habits are described by Drilling et al. (2002) as “catholic,” meaning these ducks will eat just about anything.

Feral populations, often half wild, half domesticated, live in urban areas around the world. Mallards have been bred by people at least from the 12th century in Europe, and for more than 2000 years in Asia—the resulting in feral Mallards in great variety of shapes, sizes and colors—often confusing to beginning birders. Mallards are the source of the world's domestic ducks (the only exception is the Muscovy Duck, a species I will write about in an upcoming post).

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