This past weekend I attended a Bird Photography workshop taught by Don Tredinnick and Craig Mullenbach with Minnesota Exposure Education. I learned some new techniques and had some good camera time at Veteran’s Park in Shakopee, MN photographing mallards, coots, and Canada geese. All of us in class spent a couple hours observing and practicing what we learned. My goal was to practice taking photos of birds taking off and landing, but was I in for treat! There was a lot of interesting behavior to watch and document, including A LOT of mating activity. Spending hours watching the mallards, in particular, reminded me of my ornithology class in college where I had to observe herring gull behavior for an hour a day for a week. It’s incredible what you can learn in such a short amount of time.
For example, did you know:
- When trying to capture the moment a mallard takes off from the water, if you watch the second bird near the first that took off, you might catch that second bird? They usually take off one after the other.
- Mallards will bob their heads before doing something interesting like taking off and males and females will bob their heads before they mate.
- Before mating begins, the female will lay low in the water, and the male will climb on top of her, nearly sinking her completely underwater, grab her neck, mate then fall off. The female then does a little splashing bath equivalent of a smoke afterwards…
- Mallards will mate with just about any species of duck and it shows in the variety of hybrids that were out on the lake.
- Males threaten others in their territory by getting low in the water and zooming towards them.
See if you can identify some of those behaviors I explained in my photos below. I hope you’ve learned something interesting from my little bird lesson, and recognize how even a common mallard can be fascinating. I can’t wait for spring and all those ducklings! Enjoy!