Saturday, November 14, 2009
I've always liked the story of the Ugly Duckling. Maybe it's because I have High School memories of the popular girls or maybe it's because I am ever hopeful that at some point I'll answer that age-old question: who am I, really? But at any rate, I have a soft spot for those duck(lings) that many birders ignore or--worse still in my opinion--describe as 'trash birds'. And Mallards fall among them.
Your classic Drake Mallard in breeding plumage is very easy to identify: its glossy green head, smart white neckline and chocolate-colored breast is unmistakable. Likewise, the female in breeding plumage has some telltale signs, notably the orange bill with the black center. But there are many Domestic Mallards and they can range in color from pure white to dark black with practically everything in between. They're usually easy to spot: big, clunky ducks, usually with orange/yellow/green bills. But I learned a trick to sex these Domestic Mallards: the breeding males will have the curly-q feathers at the end of their tales, as seen on the second black Mallard in the picture. Most people won't look twice at a Mallard, let alone a Domestic one. But actually, these birds deserve a second glance--just like the Ugly Duckling.