The photo above was taken last Tuesday morning in Abrams Park. I was standing near the creek with James Barhitte the Park Caretaker, and John Schiessl. We were wondering why this pair of mallards tolerated us being so close. After a moment, another pair, male and female, flew in and landed in the water near the first pair. The new pair slowly moved toward the first pair and when they got close the two males got into a brief but vigorous fight. Then, one of the hens flew upstream, followed by the male. However, they slowly closed the distance and again the males got into another battle. It was surprising to us standing on the stream bank. Then, the two pairs began to drift downstream. At that point, a third pair flew in and landed near the other pairs, so now there were three pairs of ducks. We watched as each time the males got close, there was more fighting. Finally, the feathered flotilla drifted out of sight.
The behavior of the ducks seemed strange. The peaceful scene rapidly changed into a contentious one with several battles between the males as they floated downstream towards the Division Street Bridge. It looked as though the males were following the females and staying close. It makes sense because a male doesn’t want another male to mate with his female. Also, an unattended female can be mobbed and gang raped by single males. An article about mallards in Wikipedia suggested females will initiate a fight between males. It may be because they want to test the genetic worthiness of the male they’ve chosen. So they want more than a handsome guy. He needs to show her his toughness.
It was very interesting to watch. Mallard reproduction seems complicated and a bit brutal. It must work because there are lots of mallards on Gee Creek. After mating, the hens will build a nest hidden in grass and brush at the top of the stream bank. On the day that the ducklings hatch, they abandon the nest and go to the creek. Males play no part in raising the ducklings.
~ Contributed by Paul Snoey