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J R's Amateur Birder's Journal - Photograph Copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Latest Edition of tmy Birder's Journal is always here.

Some Stuff About Ducks

D U C K  L O V E

Ducks Into the Sunset - copyright 2006 J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Ducks Couple Into The Sunset

Ducks and especially Mallards are, according to all my growing number of bird books, monogamous for life. But as the following photographs indicate, monogamy may not be all it's cracked up to be.

Unruly Mob - copyright 2006 J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Unruly Mob with Guard Ducks

I have such good (?) photographs of this event, because much of it played out a few feet in front of us as we sat on a park bench in Sunset Bay, watching birds. We heard the squabble start a couple dozen feet off to our right as a woman walked near a gaggle of ducks.

The mob moved a dozen yards off to our left as it dawned on us what was going on. I'd told Anna that duck sex is sometimes more like gang rape than anything romantic. I've photographed brief snippets of that sort of action a couple of times previously.

We were talking about that when the mallard mob moved about 8 feet in front of our perch and continued as if no humans were around. These guys clearly have acclimated themselves to humans wandering through their lives, even taking pictures.

When the first few shots were blurry (In the descending dark of evening, I can see the camera's LCD pretty clearly, when I had a few seconds to reconnoiter my earlier results.) I upped the ISO to the figures past 1600, even added flash when I thought that might help. As shown in this shot.

Mallard Sex - En Masse - copyright 2006 JRCompton. All Rights Reserved.

Mallard Sex

All of these males chased that one spotted female. When they'd catch her, several males would hold her head down with their bills while they took turns mounting her. When one would finish, he'd fall to the side, sometimes with his feet in the air as if completely winded, still for a few seconds, then jump up as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile, another male would mount the defeated female.

Sometimes she'd escape briefly with the gang of them waddling along right behind and all around her. While one did his thing, the other males walked around in random patterns, nearly oblivious. I waited for several to get out of the way of the camera.


Ducks Doing It - copyright 2006 JRCompton. All Rights Reserved.

Ducks Doing It   1/60 @ f/5.6 180mm iso1600 FF-high HH  patterns

Their technique barely varied. Each new male would climb on top from behind, enfold her with his wings and push her down from the back from the back of her head. At least this lady duck was on land. I've seen them nearly drowned a hapless female they finally caught off shore.


Mom Mallard and Five Ducklings - Photograph Copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mom Mallard and Five Darling Ducklings

Yeah, this is the result, although the lady above was hanging out around the lake with a bright White Domestic (I don't know what else to call them. They're everywhere but in my bird books. How can that be? Utterly ubiquitous at the lake ...)

I don't know my ducks very well yet. But I'm learning.

Richard Thies of Oregon State reports that this is not a Wood Duck mom, as I had originally captioned this photo, and which I heartily agree. I suspect it is, as they all are, Mallards. Richard says they are Gadwalls, which here, at least, would be very unusual.

As I type this in July 2013, so with seven more years experience with these things, I seriously doubt it's a Gadwall, although that would be lovely. They're mallards, and I muffed my caption seven years ago, but I've changed it now.