The expression “water off a duck’s back” is a reminder of the waterproof qualities of the feathers. They are kept waterproof by regular applications of oil from the preen gland.
Scoring a duck in cricket reflects the fact that the 0 on the score sheet resembles the shape of a duck’s egg.
Mallard remain a popular sporting bird: they can be shot inland from 1 September to 31 January.
Ducklings are almost exclusively insect eaters, only turning to a mainly vegetarian diet as they get older.
Historically, commercial duck decoys caught thousands of mallard every winter, with most of the birds caught being sent to Leadenhall Market.
A duck doesn’t feed her brood, as they are capable of finding their own food as soon as they leave the nest.
Once all the eggs have hatched the duck leads the brood away to water. They never return to the nest.
A typical clutch is from nine to 13 eggs, but as many as 18, laid by the same duck, have been recorded.
Incubation takes 27-28 days, and all the eggs hatch within the same 24-hour period.
During the summer moult the drake loses his fine feathers and looks very much like the duck.
Ducks will lay their eggs in a wide variety of sites, from grassy riverbanks to the tops of tower blocks. The downy young can survive jumps from great heights.
The mallard displays classic sexual dimorphism, which means that the drake’s plumage is quite unlike that of the duck’s.
Though they will pair up in the autumn, the drake only remains with his partner until she starts incubating, and has nothing to do with rearing the ducklings.
The Victorians knew the mallard simply as the wild duck.
Only the female, or duck, makes the familiar quacking. The drake’s call is a much softer and quieter note.
Though northern populations are migratory, European mallard rarely move south of the Mediterranean.
Mallard are widespread throughout Europe and Asia, occurring as far east as Japan, and they can also be found throughout much of North America.
Mallard are one of the few species of birds to have been successfully domesticated: the mallard is the ancestor of such breeds as the Aylesbury, Khaki Campbell, Indian Runner, Silver Appleyard and Rouen.
The mallard’s success is due to its adaptability, for it is a much at home on a town pond as it is on a Highland loch.
Both sexes become completely flightless during the summer moult.
Though generally regarded as the classic surface-feeding duck, up-ending in shallow water, they will dive for their food too if they need to.
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