Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bird Blog: Meet Mr & Mrs Mallard

This is the third year that our backyard feeder has been visited by a pair of Mallard ducks.  I prefer to think of them as "Mr & Mrs", i.e. the same couple, even after learning that they usually only form pairs from October to May when the female is left by the male to nest & the raise her young by herself.  Perhaps that explains why the conversations that I imagine between the two of them always have her sounding rather frustrated & cross with him.

They typically arrive in late winter, when the snow is still on the ground.  The first year, she was the one that landed in our yard, approaching the feeder with great caution.  He was spotted either circling above in the air or hiding back in the trees.  It took quite a few days before he would also land in the yard and quite a few more before he edged his way over to the feeder.  I could hear her mumbling between mouthfuls of seed "Get over it you old fool, pickings are slim this time of year!".

The first time I saw them this year, I'm sure she was telling him "Yes, this is the spot.  Yes, I'm sure it's the same spot as last year and the year before.  No, it's not that other feeder three doors down, it's this one."  She started to eat, he held back for a while but eventually joined her.  I actually voiced this conversation out loud and my husband asked why it was always Mr Mallard playing the dolt.  Here I thought I was just stating the obvious ;)

The regulars at the feeder (chipmunks, squirrels, various other birds) are always a bit disconcerted by the arrival of the Mallards but as you can see from this photo they have now established quite a cordial relationship.

Typically one duck eats while the other stands guard and then they switch around.  I think this is an excellent arrangement as a little red fox has recently been sighted quickly making its way through the rough just behind the feeder.  I know that the fox has to eat too but I would really prefer that it not be one of "my" ducks.

I don't expect Mr & Mrs Mallard to be dining with us for much longer this year as they usually disappear around this time.  I'll miss their morning & evening visits.  I'm wishing them all the best and hoping to see them return for a fourth season.

Photos: Tatiana Dokuchic (May 2, 2012)

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