This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the mallard.
The mallard (anas platyrhynchos) is a dabbling duck of both the northern and southern hemispheres. This species is the most familiar duck to people, being the ancestor of most strains of domesticated ducks. They are known to frequently interbreed with indigenous wild ducks, thus polluting genes and possibly causing the extinction of pure species like the American black duck, pin-tail and Mexican duck.
Males have a distinctive yellow bill with a black tip, an iridescent green head, white neck ring and a body of pale gray. The female has brown speckled plumage, a mottled orange/black/brown bill, orange legs and a dark eye stripe. Both sexes exhibit an area of iridescent blue speculum on their wings, noticeable in flight. They have a wingspan of 32-39 inches and fly up to 60 mph.
Their habitats consist of marshes, ponds, lakes, wooded swamps and rivers with preferred water levels of 3 feet or less. Mallards are omnivorous. Their diet consists mainly of plant material-roots, seeds, stems, grains and even tree seed, but they also consume crustaceans, small fish, frogs, mollusks, earthworms and insects.
Pairs are formed in October/November. Following migration in early spring, both choose the nesting site. Eggs (eight to 13) are incubated by the female for 26-30 days. One brood per year is produced.
A characteristic of the mallard is its noise. The notable loud quacking comes from the female. The male produces a softer quack with undertones of whistling, especially during mating season. The mallard population in our northern hemisphere Pagosa Springs appears to be stable due to their adaptability.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.