After an unsuccessful breeding season for the Aberystwyth mallards, now is the time for them to moult, and replace their now worn out breeding feathers for a fresh new look. At this time of year the usually fairly dispersed population gathers together in a large flock of around 20-25 birds, and they spend the majority of the their time in the relative safety of the harbour gap.
During their moult all the feathers are gradually replaced, rendering the birds temporarily flightless and vulnerable, leading them to congregate together for safety in numbers.
Mallard drakes on alert
This close proximity can cause tension, particularly among the males and conflict is common, particularly when food is on offer. If aggressive quacking and displays don’t resolve the dispute they can also resort to physical confrontation. Luckily this rarely results in anything more serious than a few lost feathers. and is soon forgotten.
The drakes are all at varying stages of their moult with some just begin to lose their bright colours, and the odd feather here or there.
This drake is at the very start of the moult with just a few fading feathers around the eye and base of the beak
Others have already transitioned to their full ‘eclipse ‘ plumage, where they take on the appearance of females, but with yellow rather than orange beaks. This keeps them camouflage during their brief period of grounding.
This drake still has some green iridescence remaining on the head
An eclipse male (left) and female (right)
Drake in eclipse plumage
One particular male, mid way through his own moult twas easy to distinguish from the others. Losing the fine feathers around his eyes has created a spectacle like pattern.
Mallard drake with ‘spectacle’ patches
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © www.greyfeatherphotography.com
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