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Fishy February; A-Z of a Mermaid's Friends (M)

M - Mallard

Being surrounded by wetlands, it’s hard not to make friends with the ducks! Mallards are very easily recognisable: - Males (drakes) have a dark green head, a purple-brown breast, grey body and yellow bill - Females (hens) are mainly mottled brown with an orange bill The famous quacking noise we all know is only made by females! The male’s call is much softer. Mallards are “dabbling ducks”, which means they feed by floating in water and then tip themselves up to graze! They eat seeds, acorns, berries, plants, insects and even shellfish! Should you feed them bread? It’s controversial...but at the very least, feeding ducks bread will make them fat. If uneaten, this can then start to decompose and affect the water quality. Instead, think about buying some specific duck feed, or throw them some lettuce or peas. They can grow to about 62cm long, with a 98cm wingspan and can weigh up to 1.5kg! They’ve also been recorded flying at 65mph and at 21,000ft! Their average lifespan is 3-5 years, but there has been a Mallard that lived to 27! A typical clutch is 9-13 eggs, but there are records of up to 18 eggs being laid by the same duck. Incubated eggs take around 28 days to begin hatching, and then around 24 hours to fully appear. Ducklings will stay in the nest for at least 10 hours, before go ing out swimming for the first time. Ducklings take 50-60 days to fledge (fly) and become independent. Mallards are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. If you find a nest of eggs, you mustn’t interfere with them!

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