Duck pictures: Smudge the Little White Mallard Duck
Duck pictures: Smudge the little white duck
This is a delightful photo journal by wildlife photographer AnnMackieMiller. The pictures follow the fortunes of a little white mallard duck and her ducklings. Scroll down for the best view of these wonderful photographs.
"Last year (2010) I was able to tell the story of Smudge the little white duck. This pretty hybrid mallard duck (with a smudge of black on her head), produced a brood of ducklings with a male mallard, he, unique in not having a white neck ring. Unusually, the male remained with the female and at about four weeks they abandoned the chicks. They were later adopted by another female mallard. In later weeks, Smudge ‘acquired’ the ducklings of another female mallard.
This year then, her appearance with a brood of 13 ducklings was greeted with great enthusiasm. It will be fascinating to be able to document her behaviour this spring. The family made their first public appearance at Micklethwaite wharf on Monday. Again, the male was close by her side. Generally speaking the male has nothing to do with the female or with the ducklings. Every book I have read also says that mallards do not form monogamous relationships as this pair appears to have done. The same male, without a white neck ring, was seen with Smudge while she brooded the ducklings in two different sites. He was also chasing off other male mallard ducks but I suspect this was to prevent any of them mating with his female rather than acting as protection for the ducklings."
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Diary of a Little White Duck
The next day saw the family out on the canal, the ducklings roaming far and wide over the water, both adults present. Smudge made no noise and seemed to push away the chicks on occasion. On day three, however, Smudge appeared with the ducklings but without the male. Again she was silent and the chicks were wandering far from her – they were down to 11. Mortality is very high in mallard ducklings.
On day four, Smudge is making noises. Generally mallard mothers made soft clucking noises, almost continually, as if to ensure the ducklings stick close to her. This is the first time Smudge has done so, even if she does sound as if she has a sore throat. Although the ducklings now number only seven, in contrast to earlier days, they are sticking very close to her. Once again the male was absent.
Day five saw the return of the male to smudge’s side. Indeed, they are still mating. The ducklings, still numbering 7, were free-ranging while mum and dad played. Smudge also had to spend considerable time escaping the attentions of other male mallard ducks.
I now suspect the presence of the male is related to mating, i.e., that there is still the expectation of producing more fertilised eggs. Certainly the behaviour of both female and male are the same as before the eggs hatched. After mating the female seems to attract more male attention, so she goes into defensive mood – flight escape, hunching down to protect the back of her neck and loud quacking to alert her mate to her defence. The male’s imperative is to prevent any other duck from fertilising his female’s eggs. It will be interested to see if she abandons there chicks if and when she is due to lay more eggs.
Duck Pictures by AnnMackieMiller
SMUDGE the white mallard duck
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Since I started watching Smudge this is the first year she has managed to raise ducklings for more than a few weeks. She lost every brood up till now, though one year she did 'borrow' another female's brood and successfully helped her raise her babies.
This year though 4 of her 10 strong brood survived. Sadly, her long time mate died over the winter so who knows who fathered this lot. It is interesting that during the years she was mated to the male without a white ring round his neck she wasn't bothered by other males but this year she definitely has. It is very unusual for mallards to have only one mate and it is sad to see her long-time companion is gone.
Smudge and chicks 2014
© 2011 annmackiemiller