Odd Ducks

This gallery contains 5 photos. Mallards, or Wild Ducks, are the most widespread and commonly seen ducks in the world, and we take them for granted, but did you know that they are the base ancestors of many duck species in the world (with the exception of the Muscovy duck). The shiny green heads of the males that iridesce to purple (under the right lighting conditions) and the curly tails that belong only to the males of this duck species are such familiar sights, so when the opportunity arises to see something different, it’s really worth looking into, like this adult male with a blue head that I photographed at a considerable distance a few years ago. At no point did I see his head transition into any other color. Even his significant other’s bill is strange — Mallard hens have bright orange bills with black mottling, and hers appears to be solid black. After consulting a local birding specialist, though, the blue head is, apparently, a trick of the light.

© WHSIM Blue-Headed Mallard Drake with Hen.jpg
a blue-headed Mallard drake (Maplewood Conservation Area, May 3, 2015)

f/6.3, 1/640, 500mm, ISO 200

The bright white Mallard duck below is the result of a liaison between a(n) (escaped) domestic duck and a Mallard, which produced offspring that was larger than both. She was definitely standing out from the flock of Northern Shovelers she was consorting with. In trying to figure out her clearly mixed pedigree, I even wondered if a not-too-distant Northern Pintail ancestor figured into the equation. Photographed at the inner ponds of Iona Island on January 17, 2016.

© WHSIM Female Domestic Mallard.jpga female Domestic X Mallard (probably a resident of the area) at Iona Regional Beach Park.
f/7.1, 1/500, 500mm, ISO 200

The Mallard drake with the pale blue bill below was another anomaly I’ve encountered. Theories were tossed around as to its parentage, and with a hybrid of a Mallard with Northern Pintail, Greater (or) Lesser Scaup, and domestic duck pitched as the most popular possibilities (domestic duck + Mallard is probably the correct answer). Photographed at Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary–one of the few places in the Lower Mainland where wild birds can be fed (birdseed only, please; do NOT feed them bread, which is very bad for them).

© WHSIM Blue-Billed Mallard Drake.jpg
a blue-billed domestic Mallard (Reifel Sanctuary, Westham Island, Apr 20, 2015)
f/5.6, 1/640, 289mm, ISO 200

The goose-like male below is a face familiar to Stanley Park visitors at the Lost Lagoon. He’s actually the hybrid offspring of a(n) (escaped) domestic duck and a Mallard, and the resulting progeny is bigger than both parent species. Mallards are also the “base” ancestor of domestic ducks (including Pekin ducks). Why do domestic ducks have white feathers? It is because humans have bred them for this particular coloration–because I think that being so visibly white in the wild would make you an easy mark for hunters. Photographed on July 14, 2015.

© WHSIM Domestic X Mallard Hybrid.jpg
looks like a goose, but he is also a Domestic X Mallard hybrid (note dark blue speculum on wing)
f/6.3, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 1250

This blonde Mallard hen is a familiar face at the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. I’m not sure how rare this color morph is, but to date, I have seen her at least twice there, and she is quite aware of her differences from the typical Mallard hen. Lack of pigmentation has removed the black and dark-brown speckling from her feathers (she is not leucistic, but she does have some domestic Mallard in her, too). Photographed on December 15, 2015.

© WHSIM Blonde Mallard Hen.jpg
Blondie was very accommodating with the paparazzi.
f/5.6, 1/400, 108mm, ISO 5000 

I have not seen some of the even more oddball hybrids of Mallards and other ducks, but this goes to prove how easily Mallards can hybridize with other waterfowl species. To learn more about the Mallard, visit their Cornell Lab of Ornithology allaboutbirds.0rg profile here.

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15 thoughts on “Odd Ducks

  1. Learning stuff all the time from you! I think these hybrids are very handsome and unique, and it’s interesting that they know they are different. I wonder if they have problems finding mates.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think they have problems finding mates (Mallards will mate with just about any duck, it seems), but the matter of whether they can successfully breed is another question! 🙂


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