I have the good fortune to be a neighbor to several families of Mallard ducks. I have counted three families, with a flock size of twenty, six adults and fourteen ducklings. The ducklings could swim right away. The ducklings could not fly right away, however. This is my summer to learn how to understand nature better, especially wildlife, so I was reading up on the Mallard this morning. The Mallard is a dabbling duck and not a diving duck or a perching duck. Diving ducks can swim underwater for food. Perching ducks can stand in trees.. Dabbling ducks eat mostly above the water line, but can bob below the water for foods along a shallow bottom. I believe I have seen coots diving, but coots are not diving ducks. Coots are not even ducks, being a member of the family Rallidae, the rails. Ducks are members of the family Anatidae, which includes swans and geese. There's so much about the animal kingdom I have failed to learn, despite watching many hours of Mutual of Omaha's Animal Kingdom. I believe most of the above statements to be correct. However, I will be open to any instruction of ducks in particular and the animal kingdom, in general.
I am enjoying my tribes of Mallards, but it is obvious that details of Mallard life elude my watching from my second floor deck. A Mallard has the ability to eat everything from bread to worms, but I am surprised to learn that frogs could wind up in the beaks of my neighborly ducks. The frogs have been somewhat quiet in the marsh of Hidden Cover. I have learned that the species is good at hiding its nest, and for good reason. A number of their feathered friends in the Anatidae family will lay eggs in a Mallard's nest, with the mother Mallard often none the wiser. I just wonder what happens when a Lesser Scaup hatches out of a egg with the Mallard chicks?
Mallards are a very adaptable duck. If a marsh is diked and drained, the Mallard will come live in the man-made pond. The more fussy waterfowls will look for a different wetland. If a male Mallard, a Drake, can't find a suitable hen, he'll take up with a American Black Duck or even a Northern Pintail or a Gadwall. Mallards have angered purists in countries the Mallard attempt to colonize because the Mallard can breed with other species, and the resulting birds are fertile.
The Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee has kept a Drake and Hens on its staff for years, although the crews rotate. The Mallards are given a three month stay, and returned to the farm when the following flock checks into the hotel. This means that the Duckmaster must train four teams of Mallards to march the red carpet every year.
Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom has returned to the small screen and now broadcasts on YouTube. The first series had a twenty-five year run, from 1963 to 1988, from the year of my birth to the time I graduated from college: http://www.wildkingdom.com/
Life is just ducky at the Peabody Hotel, Memphis: http://www.peabodymemphis.com/