With the Mallard breeding season in full swing it appears that most of the birds have already formed their pairs and begun to disperse and nest out of harms way. A few solitary birds remain and gather in small flocks consisting of unattached drakes, eager to mate with any stray females who might cross their paths.
I was watching a lone female feeding at the water’s edge when a flock of these males flew in and landed in the water a short distance away. Within moments the tranquillity of the morning was shattered by a chorus of aggressive quacking as the drakes squabbled with each other for access to the female.
As the female attempted to escape one of the males grabbed her and pulled her into the water. In a flurry of beaks and wings all the drakes were soon on top of her and forcibly attempting to mate with her.
Sadly I just missed out on capturing all the action in this shot, with the female mallard just cut off at the edge of shot. Oops!
If you look very carefully here, you may just be able to spot the female’s beak (beneath the male in the centre) just protruding out of the water as she struggles to reach the surface.
It wasn’t easy to watch as the poor female was submerged repeatedly, fighting to the surface to catch a desperate breath. It was a huge relief when she finally emerged from the mob, apparently unscathed.
A brief bath to regain her dignity and she took off, apparently unharmed by her ordeal.
With the female gone, the drakes then turned their frustrations out on each other until calm eventually descended once more.
Whilst these ‘forced copulations’ appear brutal, it is important to realise that the males aren’t intentionally trying to harm the female (although females can be accidentally drowned in the process). These drakes are just following their instincts and desperate for the chance to pass on their genes to the next generation.
— All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2017 © http://www.greyfeatherphotography.com
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