Saturday, July 7, 2012

Duck Families - Mallards & Woods

Mother Mallard looking after her 3 ducklings, Rock Cut State Park; 6/15/2012.
As with Canada Geese (yesterday's post), by mid June to mid July, Mallard Duck families (Above) are easy to run across almost anywhere in the northern half of North America. Generally, Mallards will lay anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen eggs in one clutch taking about one month to incubate. Then another 7-8 weeks for the ducklings to be fully fledged. The large quantity of young in a clutch makes the Mallard Duck the most widely spread Duck in North America (perhaps the world?), so I was surprised last year while I was watching a Mallard with only one duckling following it around (Below). I waited for more to appear, but no more did. It goes to reason that the rest of her clutch was lost by a predator, parasites, or perhaps didn't hatch.
Mallard and single baby, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 5/22/2011.

Manky Mallard (cross with a domestic duck?) mother giving instructions to her brood, Rock Cut SP; 7/21/2010.
At first glance, you wouldn't suspect that the family of ducks (Above) were Mallards. The Mother (on the right) is likely a mix of a Mallard with a domestic species (the dark bill and white breast looked like perhaps a mix with a Northern Pintail? but more likely with a domestic duck).  Mallards have been notoriously known for their promiscuous behavior with their mating habits. They have been known to breed with several other species - wild and domestic.  When Mallards breed with a domestic duck they have been called "Manky Mallards" (coined by Charlie Moores at ). This particular Manky mother has a brood of eight "Manklets" (I coined that one). In the photo (Above) you can see that six of them have the same markings as their mother, and in the photo (Below), you can see that only two of them have the more traditional Mallard Duckling look.
Falling in line under the watchful eye of the Sgt. Manky Mallard, Rock Cut SP; 7/21/2010.
In my short Birding life (2-3 years?) I have been trying to photograph as many Manky Mallards as I come across them. perhaps someday I will do a post featuring all these Mankies.

A Wood Duck family at the Nygren Wetlands, Rockton, IL; 6/2/2012.
Another duck speces, that is less common or promiscuous than the Mallard, is the Wood Duck. I have had the lucky oppurtunity to winess at least two Wood Duck families this Spring. The family of six ducklings (Above) were at quite a distance at Nygren Wetlands. (Below) I was was able to catch a baby Woodie running acoss the mudflat to catch up with the rest of the family. Again I was quite far away, and the ISO on my camera was not working properly that day, so all my photos in this outing were blown out and contrasty.
A blurry fuzzball of a Wood Duckling scurrying to catch up with rest of the brood, Nygren Wetlands, Rockton, IL; 6/2/2012.
Another distance shot of a different Wood Duck family, Horicon Marsh NWR, WI; 6/16/2012.
The second Wood Duck family (Above) I saw this Spring was at Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.  Even though I was quite far across the pond from them, it didn't take Mother Woodie long to coax her brood of three into the cattail reeds out of sight. Because Wood Ducks are less common than Mallards, it is always a treat to spot one.

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