Sunday, 1 May 2016

Just when you thought you knew.....

     I am pretty sure that if you asked anyone interested in birds whether drake Mallards Anas platyrynchos assume any role in raising their young the answer would be "No." 
    This is certainly borne out in the literature, (see Kortright 1943, Madge and Burn 1988, Johnsgard 1992, Ogilvie and Pearson 1994, Kear 2005).
     It is conventional wisdom that once the female commences egg laying the male deserts her and goes off to join the "bachelor club" of other males, all moulting their plumage and becoming flightless for several weeks.
     Thus it was a great surprise yesterday, on Lake Ontario, to witness a family of Mallards, two to three hundred metres offshore, where both drake and hen were chaperoning their ducklings.




     I watched carefully to see whether it just happened that a male was swimming in close proximity to the female with her young, but this was clearly a family. If the ducklings strayed too far from the group the male would actively take part in rounding them up and displayed as much vigilance in every way as the female.
     The only hint about this possibility is found in Kear 2005 wherein it is stated, "Pairbond lasts until early or mid incubation, male playing no part in brood rearing; however, in urban and other artificial situations, increasingly normal to see male accompanying female and brood."
     Whether this area of Lake Ontario, at Paletta Park in Burlington, ON would fit the above definition is a moot point. It is certainly in the midst of an urban environment, but the park is right on the lake and has a wooded area with creeks. Mallards breed there prolifically each year, yet this is the first time I have ever seen a family grouping which included an attentive male.
     I'd be interested to hear whether others have observed this phenomenon. 

Literature consulted:
Kortright, F.H. (1943), The Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America, The American Wildlife Institute, Washington, DC
Madge, S. and H. Burn, (1988), Waterfowl, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY
Johnsgard, P.A. (1992), Ducks in the Wild, Key Porter Books, Canada
Ogilvie, M and B. Pearson (1994), Wildfowl, Hamlyn Limited, London
Kear, J. (2005), Ducks, Geese and Swans, Oxford University Press, Oxford
     

31 comments:

  1. I'll observe the breeding duck species this summer to see if the drakes pull their weight.........

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  2. Hi David, well done will watch with a bit more diligence this year, hope to find a repeat of your experience. Regards John

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  3. Interesting post and one that would not have even occurred to me. I would just have presumed it was natural!!! Take care Diane

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  4. Good to the whole family to see David duck.
    Here I see yet more often the male and the female with the young ducklings, also yesterday I saw that still;-))
    Greetings Tinie

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  5. Well observed David. You made me check BWP to see what it says – “During laying and incubation range of female restricted to vicinity of nest including waiting area of male. Male ranges increases widely once incubation started; at first continues to frequent one or more waiting areas fairly near nest when joined by female during her recesses from nest, but present less and less as incubation progresses, moves right away and pair bond is broken.”

    I need to take a closer look at the local Mallards (don’t we all) when I’m back from Menorca.

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  6. Hihihi what e funny pictures, very cute family :))
    Hugs David

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  7. Hello. Here in Finland, all the nests is still in its early stages. Gorgeous family portrait.

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  8. Nice family shots. I have never seen a male with the family group before. Nice to see him with the young ones!

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  9. Dearest David,
    You got some very unique photos here and that speaks far louder than any words of presumption.
    Glad you had another successful day making photos.
    Sending you hugs,
    Mariette

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  10. A nice duck species, here I can see them only as domestic birds

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  11. Perhaps the species is evolving . It happened with humans a couple of generations ago . (Sorry for the facetious answer ... You know I am an amateur birder with little knowledge). I will ...seriously...be interested in coming back to find out what you learned. The family group is beautiful.

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    Replies
    1. And then there's Donald Trump who got stalled on the evolutionary scale somewhere...........

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    2. Oh yes? He is FAR above most of us! A really smart guy and all those liberal journalists cannot do anything about it. Suck it up!

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    3. David I fully and completely agree with your reply!!! Thanks.

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    4. Was about to write a comment in the same vein as Sallie, then saw her comment.

      Donald Trump frightens me - could be the most dangerous man on the planet!

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    5. Trump could scare his mother, Richard. How any woman could support him (make that anyone, period, but especially a woman) is beyond my comprehension. As far as him being smart (if he is) I fail to see what that has to do with anything - Hitler was no doubt smart, Stalin too and probably Osama bin Laden. Being smart sure doesn't make one fit to govern.

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  12. Dear little ducks.
    Good weather for ducks down here at the moment.

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  13. Hi David.

    Cute those little Ducklings.

    Groettie from Patricia.

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  14. Looks like even Mallards have been getting sensitivity training these days!

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  15. Lovely Mallard Duck family, splashing about.

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  16. Interesting information David. Nature is Always full of surprises.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  17. Great place to take pictures.. have a great week David..

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  18. You're a excellent observer, David. I looked at my 'Duck photos' and I had only family pictures with mother Duck and her ducklings. No dad. Gr Jan W

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  19. Nicely observed, and expertly documented, David. Something in the back of my mind tells me that I might have seen this behaviour before. I'll now pay closer attention!

    Best wishes to you both - - Richard

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  20. Fascinating to learn your experiences seeing the family of Mallards. Made me feel good just to read that and I certainly enjoyed your photos. Thank you!

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  21. So lovely to see a family of ducks.
    Thank you.

    All the best Jan

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  22. Indeed very special to see a male duck with his family !!! Very nice that you could photograph it :-)

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  23. Your expectations of my wealth and generosity know no bounds. Unfortunately I am but a poor guy.

    Should I win the National Lottery you will be on the short list for a visit to my palatial Menorca villa.

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  24. What an interesting sighting. I've never seen anything like it.

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  25. Beautiful family !!
    Lovely photos !!
    Greetings

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