Mallard duck are the most numerous wild ducks and the most popular type of game among hunters. Currently, there are 12 species of mallards in the world, of which the common one is the most famous. All of them are closely related to such waterfowl as teals, pintail, killer whales, wiggles, broad-legged birds.
Male of the Common Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos).
The appearance of a mallard is a kind of standard for how a duck should look. In comparison with other species of anseriformes, mallards have a shorter neck. The beak of these birds is flattened, and on the sides it is studded with tiny teeth, with the help of which they filter out small animals from the water. The wings of these birds are strong, of medium length, which indicates good flying ability. The tail is short, smoothly tapering from the sides and bluntly cut off at the end. Paws are short, webbed, strongly set back. Like other ducks, mallards have a developed coccygeal gland: birds use its fat to lubricate the plumage and increase its water-repellent properties.
Gray mallards (Anas superciliosa).
The body length of all species of mallards ranges from 45-60 cm, weight is about 1 kg, and drakes only slightly exceed ducks in size. But sexual dimorphism (the difference in color between males and females) is clearly expressed. Females of all species of mallards are very modestly colored, their plumage is dominated by reddish-brown tones. As a rule, each feather has a light border, which together creates a streaky pattern on the duck's body. The beak in females is colored black, often with a yellow border or spot, in males it is solid yellow or includes small black spots. In mallard drakes, streaks are either absent or occupy small areas, the rest of the body is colored uniformly in brown, gray, black. In mallard drakes, the head and upper part of the neck are covered with dark green feathers, which shimmer in blue and purple in the sun. In addition, all mallards (males and females) have a so-called "mirror" on their wings - a plumage area, also painted in iridescent green (less often blue and purple) color. Mallard duck legs are always bright orange.
The drakes of the black mallard (Anas poecilorhyncha) in flight exhibit the "mirrors" characteristic of these ducks.
The habitat of the common mallard is the most extensive among all anseriformes. It covers all of Eurasia and North America, in the north it reaches the circumpolar regions, in the south it reaches Mexico, North Africa, Central Asia and the Himalayas. Common mallards are acclimatized in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In addition, native species of mallards live in North America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Madagascar and the Hawaiian archipelago. Some of them (for example, Laysan and Hawaiian mallards) are narrow endemics, their range covers only a few small islets. All species of mallards prefer to live on the banks of flowing fresh water bodies overgrown with dense reeds, reeds, and bushes. These ducks easily get used to human presence and often settle on city ponds and canals.
The Laysan mallard (Anas laysanensis) is found on the only island of Laysan, which is part of the Hawaiian archipelago.
Mallard ducks of tropical regions are sedentary, living in the north - migratory. Ducks fly to warm regions in September-November, and return back in February-May. Common mallards living in North America overwinter in Mexico and California, birds from Scandinavia fly to winter in Western Europe, ducks from Eastern Europe often stop for the winter in northern Africa and Asia Minor, and mallards from Siberia fly to China. During wintering and during flights, these ducks can form flocks of hundreds and thousands of individuals, however, upon returning to their nesting sites, they break up into small groups of 10-15 birds. Each such flock occupies a small reservoir, during the mating season it breaks up into pairs, and during the breeding period, drakes and ducks live separately.
The yellow-nosed mallard (Anas undulata) is the only species that lives in flocks all year round.
Ducks spend most of their lives on the surface of the water, where they feed, clean and even mate. And only for sleep, the birds go out on land and spend the night in secluded thickets. Mallard ducks take off without acceleration, their flight is fast with energetic flaps of their wings, landing on the water is just as swift. On the water, mallards keep confident, swim high, and to get food they often immerse the front part of the body in water and dig in the silt. But these ducks do not like to dive, they do it only in case of danger and can swim up to ten meters under water at a time, which is not so much in comparison with other species. On land, mallards move awkwardly, waddling, but such a gait is deceiving, if necessary, the duck can run briskly, making quick turns. Mallard ducks exchange characteristic quacking among themselves, and the voices of males and females differ from birth.
The females of the common mallard search for food in the characteristic “overturning” position.
The basis of their diet is plant food: duckweed, leaves and seeds of hornwort, pemphigus, pondweed, and water color. Ducks also often swallow small aquatic animals: pond snails, insects and their larvae, crustaceans, fish fry and tadpoles (in rare cases, even adult frogs). In addition, mallards, on occasion, willingly graze in the fields, eating grains of wheat, rice, rye, oats, millet.
Drakes of tropical mallards begin to mall in October, and drakes of migratory species - in February-March. Before the start of mating, birds observe a partial molt, as a result of which the males dress in a mating outfit. It differs from ordinary plumage only in more saturated shades and a pair of curled feathers at the ends of the wings. During mating, males swim, making sharp jerks of their heads, sometimes a kind of mating dance is performed by the female. A duck builds a nest on the shore of reed stalks and coastal grass, lining it with down, plucked from its own belly. Often she hides a nest in a hollow, bushes, among a windbreak. In a clutch of an ordinary mallard, there are from 8 to 12 eggs, less often - up to 18, mallards of other species usually lay from 4 to 8 eggs. Mallard eggs are white with a greenish-olive tint that disappears by the end of incubation.
Mallard clutch hidden in half-hollow.
During the construction of the nest and the laying of eggs, the drake guards the site and accompanies the duck, but with the beginning of incubation, he leaves the female (extremely rarely - he protects her until the chicks are hatched). This is explained by the fact that the bright color of the male can attract predators to the nest. In addition, after mating, drakes begin a full summer molt, during which they lose their ability to fly for some time. During this period, males behave very cautiously, often molting accumulations of ducks are removed from the breeding grounds. In females, such a molt takes place after the offspring are hatched. The incubation period lasts 22-29 days, and the eggs laid by the first go through a long development cycle, and the embryos in the eggs laid by the last ones develop faster. As a result, all chicks hatch within 24 hours. They need several hours to dry out, after which they constantly follow their mother, who immediately tries to take them to the reservoir. Ducklings grow very quickly and by two months they become independent and acquire the ability to fly. Mallard ducks reach sexual maturity by one year, in nature they can live up to 12 years, and in captivity - up to 18.
Common mallard with ducklings.
Despite such a long life expectancy in natural conditions, most mallards die at an early age. Their nests are often ravaged by land-based predators: foxes, minks, raccoons, wild boars, snakes. Adult birds are attacked by foxes, wild cats, crocodiles, martens, skunks, as well as numerous birds of prey: harriers, eagles, kites, hawks, eagles, falcons, owls, ravens, herons. There are cases when ducklings were killed even by large pikes and catfish.
People have also hunted mallards for a long time, and now these ducks make up 50% of the feathered prey of hunters. For the extraction of mallards, different methods are used: hunting from the approach or with dogs, attracting wild birds with decoys, stuffed animals and domestic decoy ducks. By the way, the mallards themselves are perfectly domesticated and are the ancestors of all breeds of domestic ducks (except for musky, or Indo-ducks). Due to its extensive range and high numbers, hunting does not yet affect the population of the common mallard, but the endemic species are threatened with extinction. In the twentieth century, as a result of land reclamation and drainage of marshes, the ranges of wild ducks decreased, and crossing them with the common mallard threatened the gene pool of these species. So, the populations of Laysan, Hawaiian and, especially, Madagascar mallards are in a critical situation.
Madagascar mallard, or Meller's teal (Anas melleri) in a thicket of papyrus.
Range and general description
Diving waterfowl got a common name due to the special method of obtaining food, mainly of animal origin, from the bottom through diving. Insect larvae, small crustaceans, molluscs serve as food. The habitat is the northern hemisphere. A particularly large and diverse population of diving ducks is common in North America.
The habitat of diving ducks
The tribe Diving ducks includes duck - Aythya and diving - Netta. Common features are the medium size of stocky birds with a large head. All of them, except teals, are distinguished by their colorful plumage. The hind toes of short dark gray legs shifted backward are equipped with leathery lobes. To take off from the surface of the water, diving ducks need a running start.
They are considered valuable commercial game, although meat with the smell of fish, due to the specific nutrition of ducks, is not as tasty as that of mallards, and requires special processing. The duck is boiled twice, draining the water completely. Only then is the meat ready for further processing. It can be fried, cutlets, stewed, smoked.
Experienced hunters know that not all types of diving ducks are allowed for shooting, therefore they must accurately identify a specific protected species in the flock so as not to fall into it. They prefer to build nests near water in tall grass, which shelters them from predators.
An unusual documentary about ducks
The phylogenetic position of species from this genus is considered one of the most controversial among all modern groups of birds. One of the obstacles preventing ornithologists from compiling a complete picture of the evolutionary development of river ducks is the fact that the divergence of the two main groups of the genus - mallards and teals - occurred relatively recently (approximately in the second half of the Pleistocene) and in a very short period of time. In addition, it is likely that frequent hybridization between these birds, especially within subgenera, played an important role in the evolution of river ducks. Molecular studies by analyzing mtDNA sequences create additional confusion, showing dubious results for relationships between species.
However, there are some major treasures that can be identified. For example, this is the classic subgenus uniting mallard duck Anas
is a monophyletic (in a broad sense, not holophyletic) group, which does not raise questions among modern taxonomists. On the other hand, the phylogenetics of teals looks very confusing.
At the present time, it is more or less becoming obvious that the wiggles have a more distant relationship to other real ducks than the mallards, and should be brought into a separate genus. The same applies to the kloktun, to the teal-cracker, to the "black-capped" group Punanetta
, and shirokoskam and other birds with blue wings. Witches in relation to other species have common morphological and behavioral characteristics, however, the difference in their mtDNA of two mitochondrial protein-coding genes - cytochromes b (cyt
) and the 2nd subunit of nicotinamide dehydrogenase (ND2) also suggests that their status should be increased to a separate genus
(also including the gray duck and killer whale).
The proposed list is suggested based on morphological, molecular and behavioral characteristics.
- Possible genus N.N.
- Possible genus Querquedula
Teal cracker (
- Possible genus Punanetta
Multicolored teal (
- Teal pune (Anas puna
- Spotted teal (Anas hottentota
- Possible genus Spatula
Blue-winged teal (
- Brown teal (Anas cyanoptera
Anas cyanoptera borreroi
- possibly extinct at the end of the 20th century
- Possible genus Mareca
- † Amsterdam Flightless Witch (Anas marecula
- American Wig (Anas americana
- Sumptuous Wiggle (Anas sibilatrix
- Subgenus Chaulelasmus
Gray duck (
Anas strepera couesi
- became extinct in the second half of the 19th century
- Subgenus Eunetta
Killer whale (
- Subgenus Dafila
- Kerguelen pintail (Anas eatoni
Anas eatoni eatoni
- Anas eatoni drygalskii
- Anas georgica georgica
- became extinct in the 1950s
- Subgenus Nettion
Indian Ocean treasure Madagascar teal (
- † Mauritian duck (Anas theodori
- Gray teal (Anas gibberifrons
Anas gibberifrons remissa
- extinct (circa 1959)
(previously as part of
- Teal Whistle (Anas crecca
) (previously included in
) Andean teal (
Anas (flavirostris) andinum
- Auckland teal (Anas aucklandica
) (previously included in
) - fossil species
) (previously included in
- Subgenus Melananas
African Black Duck (
- Subgenus Anas
African species ("
») Madagascar mallard (
- Yellow-nosed mallard (Anas undulata
- Ocellated mallard (Anas fulvigula
) (sometimes as part of
Anas fulvigula fulvigula
(sometimes as part of
) (sometimes as part of
) (sometimes as part of
- † Mariana Mallard (Anas (platyrhynchos) oustaleti
) (sometimes seen as a subspecies
) (sometimes as part of
) (sometimes as part of
) † Lisyanskaya mallard (
) - hypothesis, has died out since 1845.
- Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos
- sometimes viewed as a subspecies
- Previously considered as part of the genus Anas
Bronze-winged duck (
- Crested duck (Lophonetta specularioides
- Striped duck (Salvadorina waigiuensis
This is one of the representatives of the Diving genus of the Diving ducks tribe. The red-nosed duck has a body length of up to 55 cm with a weight of up to 1.5 kg. In the spring, males stand out with brownish-red plumage on the head, which seems large due to the dense crest of elongated feathers located on it.
The upper part of the torso is painted in dark brown, in harmony with the black shiny belly and the same shade of the back. The sides and mirrors of the drake are white. The colorful image is complemented by bright red legs and a beak.
The female cannot boast of a crest. She is painted in a grayish-brown tone, having a light gray abdomen and the same shade of the cheek. The ash gray mirrors do not stand out much. The legs and beak are brown.The summer male practically does not differ from the duck, retaining only the most expressive feature - the crest and white mirrors.
The chick appears with a yellow belly and a greenish-gray upper body.
These representatives of diving ducks do not dive in search of food, but turn upside down, diving only with their front part. They take off from the water surface hard enough, pushing off with their feet. They often come out of the water ashore.
Representatives of the genus
Bird diving represented by 4 groups:
- marble teal,
- pink-headed duck.
They all have a very attractive appearance. Diving ducks are often kept in zoos.
The dives are of average size and weight from 800 g to 1.5 kg. The duck is slightly smaller than the common mallard, and this allows it to be classified as miniature.
Drakes are somewhat larger than females and have more elegant plumage. The color of females is usually very modest and inconspicuous. There are 3 types of dives.
The name of the bird is associated with the color of the iris of the eye.... The bird lives in South America and, as an introduced and well-established bird, in Central Africa below the Sahara Desert.
Red-eyed dives make their nests in dense thickets. They hatch eggs for 26 days.
The color of the plumage of the bird is as follows:
- head - black plumage with a greenish tint,
- chest - purple color,
- the rest of the body is brown with olive tint.
Young drakes, like females, have gray plumage. The color of the plumage in males changes color at the time of puberty.
White eyed dives
The white-eyed dive belonging to the genus Cerneti is also called black-eyed or white-eyed. These diving ducks, with a body length of up to 40 cm and a weight of about 0.5 kg, have a fairly high landing on the water surface, while keeping their tail slightly raised. They are skilled divers, but they can hardly rise to fly.
The male in the spring is colored differently: blackish-reddish belly, brownish-reddish head, goiter and neck, black uppertail with back, white speculum, undertail and middle part of the breast. This gorgeous outfit fades in summer. Ducklings are characterized by black-painted sides, back and abdomen. They have a yellowish tinge on the sides of the head and a whitish throat stands out.
Arriving at nesting sites, white-eyed divers settle in river floodplains, and also prefer deep lakes, where there is large quantities of aquatic vegetation.
These amazing ducks can build a nest on hummocks, in reed beds, on floating logs. The female lays 7 to 12 greenish eggs.
Features of diving ducks
Unlike river ducks, diving ducks - these include ducks, gogols, long-tailed ducks and scoops and other bird species - are characterized by a number of their own characteristics, which are directly related to the life of these birds in open and deep water bodies. So, these birds have to get food mainly by diving, therefore, it is not surprising that they have a compact and muscular body, as well as dense plumage. The neck of such ducks is thick and short, the head is angular and large. Their legs are set far back and have well-developed swimming membranes, which are so necessary for these birds. It is noteworthy that they even have a small leathery blade on their hind toes, which helps a novice hunter to distinguish a diving duck from an ordinary one. The wings of such a diving duck are short, the tail seems to be chopped off and has underdeveloped webs. However, if we consider the appearance of such diving ducks as whetstones, scoops and white-headed duck, then their tail has a wedge-shaped shape and elongated middle feathers make it bulky. But in the long-tailed duck, especially in the spring feather, the central pair of tail feathers is 10 centimeters longer than the rest of the plumage.
Where do diving ducks live?
This is what the black sea looks like
Water is the native element of diving ducks. They are skilled divers, excellent swimmers and in terms of these characteristics they are in many ways superior to their other river cousins. Therefore, it is not surprising that an experienced hunter, even from afar, will be able to distinguish the silhouette of a diving duck from an ordinary river duck. A clue to him will be such signs as the body of a duck deeply submerged in water, and a tail that touches the surface of such water. The only exception is the duck ducks - their tail sticks up, and the long-tailed duck has elongated tail feathers that rise above the water.
Diving ducks move very badly on land, therefore, they do it extremely rarely. Only when the nesting period begins, they are ready to make a short journey from the water to their nest and back. It is noteworthy that
if you shoot a dive, then he will never come ashore, but on the contrary will try to go into open water, where he will try to escape, constantly going under the water.
They do not like diving and flying through the air. They are simply not adapted for this. Still, a massive and heavy body, short wings - all this is not created for flying, therefore, they have to scatter in the water, often paddling with their paws, in order to rise even a little into the air. When a diving duck has taken off, it flies quickly, often flaps its wings, but it does not cope well with the task of maneuverability. Having taken a certain direction and choosing a course for itself, a dive can hardly turn off it, and at the same time it always inevitably loses in speed.
Diving ducks feeding
The feeding of diving ducks is closely related to deep water. So, even a depth of 5 meters is not an obstacle for them. Most of these birds prefer to eat animal food - molluscs, caddis larvae, dragonflies and other insects. They also love to feast on bloodworms, small crustaceans, even fish. Often, dives supplement their diet with plant food - algae, but its percentage in their diet depends on the type of diving ducks themselves and on the nature of the reservoir in which they live.
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