Mallard Duck Characteristics
If we are talking about waterfowl, the first bird that comes to mind is a duck mallard from the family of ducks. Due to the fact that this duck is almost omnivorous and does not require special living and living conditions, its geographical prevalence is amazing.
The only place where mallards cannot be found is Antarctica, although there is still a breed of northern American mallard. A distinctive feature of mallard is that you can easily find out what the drake looks like, and how a female does. Naturally, due to the unpretentiousness of the duck, it is often bred in households, as well as in large-scale farms. Learn more about this bird.
Let's move on to a brief description of the mallard. Mallard refers to true ducks that habitually inhabit rivers. The peculiarity of mallard feeding is that it does not look for food in the depths, but is content only with what it can find at a distance of the neck lowered into the water. This type of duck is quite large, its weight reaches a mark of 2-2.5 kg. The bird swims excellently, rarely dives, moves with difficulty overland, without developing high speed.
As for the flight, here the mallard, like other birds, is able to fly quickly, while making a characteristic sound of wingspan and a sound like a whistle, the voice of a mallard (scream) is often used by hunters as a decoy. The voice of this duck cannot be confused with anyone else. In general, mallard hunting is a popular attraction for men. Most often they use a decoy duck for this purpose, which is able to attract their relatives and lure them into a trap.
What do mallard ducks look like? The color of the feathers differs between females and males, as usual the color of the drake is more vivid and expressive. The male has blue-green spots on the head and neck, at the bottom of the neck there is a pronounced collar of white color, the back is most often black or blue-black, the same color is also characteristic of the abdomen. At the same time, the sides and breast tend to brown more. The mallard feathers on the wings have several shades, are decorated with a small oval speck, which differs sharply from the main color. The female does not look so attractive, her main color is gray with red, and her belly is slightly lighter, so the duck is often called gray mallard. It is also worth saying that the female mallard is much smaller than the drake and lives less (their life expectancy is reduced by 1-2 years).
The gray duck mallard is currently an industrial bird, which is used as prey on the hunt. At the same time, the well-known domestic ducks are descendants of the wild, it is from her that their origin originates. Mallard is now increasingly used for decorative purposes: for the settlement of artificial ponds and other reservoirs, as this is the natural habitat for mallards, but hunting does not lose its popularity.
Gray mallards winter in warmer climes. When flying to the winter, the birds keep in packs, the number of orders does not exceed 30-50 pieces, this distinguishes them from other species of migratory birds. However, they arrive at the place of flight, having already created pairs. Despite this, it happens that some drakes remain “bachelors” without finding their beloved. It is between such individuals that mass fights most often arise, so they fight for the attention of the females, leadership in the pack and the right to reproduce.
Those who created the couple almost immediately upon arrival at the nesting site begin their mating games. There is a mass of entertaining videos and photos of mallards, which were filmed by duck observers, posted on the LiveJournal resource. It is worth saying that the representatives of this breed of the game are very diverse and entertaining. The male tries to attract the female’s attention in every possible way, while dancing in the water, spectacularly dropping his beak into the water, then abruptly tipping his head back, practically doing a somersault through himself, the neck extends as much as possible, and the feathers are straightened so that the dimensions of the feathery are doubled. Mallard breeding occurs naturally, like any other bird, be it wild or domestic.
How is nesting
The couple chooses the place where the nest will be located, while the Mallard drake is responsible for physical labor, that is, it brings material for construction. Nests are usually broken near a water source, it can be either a river or puddles formed after spring snowmelt. By the time the chicks are born, often the water is gone and they hatch in the grass or under the trees. It also happens that nesting occurs high from the ground:
- on the trees;
- s hollow old trees.
Chicks usually hatch in the spring (although mallards can also produce offspring in the fall), while individuals mate only in water. If nesting occurs in the natural environment, then the eggs hatch in the nests. If the bird is kept at home in an artificial pond, boxes with warm litter of hay are suitable for this, improving the content of mallard. This is a kind of home incubation. Wild duck mallard lays one egg per day and sits on them only when their number is more than 5.
In order to keep eggs warm and to protect them from destruction, mallard females use fluff, which at a certain stage of laying duck eggs falls out of the breast. It is noteworthy that wild duck eggs are food for many animals living near water, no more than 60% of the total number survives from masonry. Such fluff is also called nesting. Chicks are growing fast. Here is the weight gain scheme in the table, from which it will be seen how many chicks are gaining at one or another age:
|Nestling age||Mallard Chicks Weight|
|10 days||100 g|
|20 days||not less than 250 g|
|1 month||500-600 g|
|50 days||700 and above - chicks can already take off for a while|
|2 months||weight over 1.2 kg, mallard ducklings fly perfectly by this time|
After the common mallard starts hatching eggs, the drakes, like “true men”, do not interfere in this process and fly away. At this time, they molt, the appearance changes. They choose places near water with dense vegetation, because the goal is to remain inaccessible to the enemy at a time when they are temporarily unable to fly. This period in the life of birds takes about a month, at the end of its plumage is restored, and ducks are again ready for migrations in the winter, but in the spring they are sure to come back.
As for the females that remained in the nests, the molting process occurs at the same time, but they do not fly away. The molting time in females does not last so long, taking only 2-3 weeks.
How a mallard looks after feathers
As mentioned earlier, the common mallard is a waterfowl, therefore, the structure of its feathers is special in order to protect the skin from getting wet. Every morning for a duck begins the same way - with a swim in a pond, like a morning shower for every person. The exercise begins with dipping the head, then the whole body is washed.
Why don't the feathers get wet? The fact is that the mallard duck processes each of them with fat, which is constantly produced by the fat gland hidden at the base of the tail. Due to the fact that the duck representative greases the feathers with grease, they do not get wet, and also always remain elastic.
In general, being in water and swimming for birds is an essential part of their life. If the mallard got into the water, then it will be here for a long time, carefully washing each feather. Water procedures necessarily end with the drying of the feathers. It always looks spectacular, because the bird spreads its wings and tail, showing all the beauty of the color. Typically, such procedures take a lot of energy, so they end in rest: the duck lies on a warm, dry place, puts his head under one wing.
If the plans for breeding mallard ducks at home, you need to make sure that she can perform the same manipulations with feathers and bathing, this is vital for her comfort.
What does mallard eat
If the bird lives in natural conditions, the mallard diet includes vegetation that grows near the reservoir, as well as small insects, tadpoles and other small living creatures. If the bird is kept at home, then feed the birds is ground grain, both dry and steamed. You can also add duckweed to the diet - this is a plant that any waterfowl eats with pleasure. Be sure to make sure that the ducks have fresh water, otherwise this is fraught with the development of many diseases of the digestive tract.
In order to better process plant foods, the structure of the duck's beak is special. Inside on both edges are microscopic brushes, they are also called filter brushes. With their help, the duck picks duckweed with water with its beak, then filters the water, leaving only food in its beak.
How do ducklings develop
After the chicks hatch from the egg, they try not to step away from the brood hen, because at this time they are easy prey for the enemy. A duck is a good mother, as it closely monitors each chick. After the birth, she for a long time does not allow babies to water, because at the beginning of life they do not have the ability to swim. The first skill they need to learn is tearing holes in the paws, so that in the future they can easily get their own food, for example, worms. When the chicks get stronger, the female will lead them to the water, give the first swimming lessons.
Chicks at the beginning of life usually eat boiled pearl barley. For greater calorie content, porridge can be mixed with chicken eggs, this will allow the bird to gain weight faster. Experienced poultry farmers are advised from the second month of life to add in the diet of wild mallard dust, gradually replacing it with all meals. It is important to add vitamins to the diet from the first days of life. The presence of fortified supplements will be an excellent prevention of many diseases, such as rickets. From how well the bird eats, its health will depend.
Already at 2-3 weeks of age, many ducklings are ready for independent nutrition, switch to plant food - duckweed. In the period from 4-6 weeks, chicks begin to molt - down is replaced by feathers. The process begins with the wings, then moves to the back and chest.
Recommendations for home content
If you plan to keep the birds at home, you need to try to make them feel as if they are in a natural environment. We outline the main points to be followed:
- On the issue of nutrition, it is important to enrich the diet of chicks with vitamins from the earliest possible age. It is also necessary to introduce duckweed at a certain age in the bird menu, so ducklings will gain weight faster.
- During nesting, you need to help the female to create the most protected nest, only so that the mallard duck can calmly engage in hatching eggs.
- It is important not to interfere in the process of hatching eggs and in no case to touch the eggs that have not yet hatched. A mother hen can reject children, which will entail the death of the entire brood.
- To preserve the maximum number of offspring of birds, you need to monitor the safety of the chicks, so the percentage of survival will increase significantly.