Thursday, 3 December 2015

A trip to see the Devilish Dabbling Ducks

Just a short one after another trip to Wollaton, and this morning I thought best to take a trip to the lake. The sky was rather grey but was rippling underneath the Mallard ducks bellies and they still looked stunning. These ducks are a national treasure, with around 710,000 birds in the UK this winter. With mallards even being found in the urban areas of the country, there is no excuse for not giving these birds some time, to appreciate the males pearlescent feathers, and their fantastic characters.

The Mallard duck is found in almost any wetland habitat around Britain, and so is well adapted to this lake and parkland in Nottingham. Mallards are often found near any open water where food is plentiful, with insects and molluscs to feed their young, and shallow waters amongst the reeds to bob their heads to the bottom to reach the reeds. Wollaton Park is ideal with a diverse feeding site of the lake, accompanied by countless possible nesting sites for them to choose from.

The ducks have generally found their pair for the winter at this time, and so one would assume these ducks have quite peaceful love lives – that is unfortunately far from the case! Mallard ducks are socially monogamous, but as I could see when looking at the lake, there is quite a heavy male skew in populations, meaning that when it comes to mating time there is a lot of competition for the ladies. Unmated males who have failed to win a partner will therefore force copulations, and often appear to just be beating up the female. As the ducks mate in the water, this can lead to the drakes seriously injuring the hen, or worse drowning her. While the mallards are first seen as a peaceful and happy bird, lovely to take the children to watch and feed, I warn you that you may encounter something that would certainly not be allowed on any under 18 film! Serious violence, sex, and occasional death does not seem like such a lovely trip to the lake after all…

I leave you then ensuring you that not every encounter with the ducks will be a traumatic one, and that you should not worry they are mostly cheerful little birds. So please do take a visit, and please feed something that is not bread. Frozen peas, lettuce or grapes are perfect to take for a snack, and will be perfect nutritious nibbles for the sinister little devils.


  1. Yes it's surprising how violent Mallard courtship can get....not nice sometimes to see the females get beaten up.

  2. Not nice at all, it is just nature taking it's cause but does not make it any easier to watch! I was wondering what caused the male bias in the first place leading to the male sexual competition, do you know at all?