Mallard

April 17, 2021

As I walked onto the fishing pier on Monday, I noticed three 12” bass scurry out of the shallows and into deeper water.  I remember thinking this was going to be a great day.  I have fished this lake several times and never really had much luck.  This time I was lucky enough to claim the fishing pier and knew my luck would change.  I threw out my taunt line for catfish and rigged my bobber with worms for the bass.  I fished for a while and never got a bite, but that was when I started noticing the Crested Duck I spoke of yesterday.  It was hanging with two Canada geese which I thought was odd.  While he seemed to keep between them and the bridge, he paid no attention to the mallards nearby.

When I looked up mallards online, I found the wild mallard (Anas platyrhynchos mallard) is a dabbling (sifts mud) duck that breeds throughout the temperate and subtropical Americas, Eurasia, and North Africa, and has been introduced to New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Falkland Islands, and South Africa.  The male birds (drakes) have a glossy green head and are grey on their wings and belly, while the females (hens or ducks) have mainly brown-speckled plumage.  Both sexes have an area of white-bordered black or iridescent blue feathers called a speculum on their wings, but especially the males.  Mallards live in wetlands, eat water plants and small animals, and are social animals preferring to congregate in groups or flocks of varying sizes.  The species is the main ancestor of most breeds of domestic ducks. 

When I turned around and tossed my bobber back toward the weeds, I quickly caught 5 small bluegills.  Then I got a flash of movement from under the bridge.  Apparently, the male Crested was helping guard the nest of a female.  This was a similar sized duck but looked nothing like the male.  It did not have a crest and was almost totally black, except for a small strip of white on her chest.  She was partially hidden under the base of the pier and I almost never saw her.  I remember thinking how odd that two such different birds would decide to pair.  Then I realized this was another mallard.  The Mallard is a very adaptable species, being able to live and even thrive in urban areas.  The non-migratory mallard ducks interbreed with indigenous wild ducks of closely related species causing genetic pollution by producing fertile offspring.  In short, they are taking over both domestic and wild ducks.

Thoughts:  After learning how domestic ducks are primarily descendants of the mallard a lot of things from my day fishing began to make sense.  All the ducks I saw were forms of Mallards, although their colors differed dramatically (but not the Canadas).  They were all white, all brown, all black, and varieties of combinations.  I also learned that complete hybridization of species of wild duck gene pools could result in the extinction of many indigenous waterfowl.  The wild mallard has evolved to form both domestic and wild species and naturally create mixed populations.  Like the mallard, we are constantly changing.  We just need to make sure we change in the right direction.  We need to celebrate diversity rather than seek to wipe it out.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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