Of all the birds that visit our garden, it is the humble mallards that give me the most pleasure. Not because they are spectacularly pretty or because they are rare or endangered but because each has its own personality.
We spend more on bird food each year than is sensible (given our income) but because of that we attract all-comers to the garden. Wood pigeons come in flocks but I honestly cannot tell one from another. House sparrows nest in profusion in every crack and crevice and often completely cover the bird feeding area but let’s be honest, they all look the same. Blue tits and great tits come and go all the time but I don’t know whether 50 different ones come to the peanuts each day or whether the same one comes back 50 times. Ducks are a completely different matter….
For the last 4 years we have been privileged to be the host to mallards from April to about mid-July. I would love to know where they go from August to March but nobody seems to know, however, each April they return to our garden to great jubilation on our part.
The first year we had just one, a male duck that I wanted to call Donald but my wife said that was too ordinary for such a noble creature so we ultimately settled on “Mr. Duck”. When, the next year, he brought a female with him we inevitably called her “Mrs. Duck”. The next year an outsider (another male who we called “Conman”) desperately wanted to join the pair of them but we soon learned that a ménage à trois just doesn’t work in the world of the duck. Mr. Duck spent the entire summer rushing at and fervently pecking Conman every time he came within a few yards of his lady.
This year things have really heated up because now we have four ducks. I’m sure it would be quite uneventful if there were two ducks and two drakes but instead there are three drakes and just the one original Mrs. Duck. She constantly looks a little smug because her charms are evidently appreciated by 3 potential suitors but poor Mr. Duck is in a constant state of panic – every time he chases off Conman he finds that “Marauder” (the name of the fourth one of “our” ducks) is sneaking up from the rear.
And what about that wonderful noise they all make. If you asked an alien to match the way that a creature looks with the noise that it makes, then he would never in a million years pair together a duck with its ridiculously funny quack.
To learn more about mallards you can do no better than the RSPB website and to make sure that you can correctly identify a Mallard along with other colourful ducks, then try our Duck Quiz and see how you get on.