Friday, March 26, 2004
When and where found: Eliza Jacobellis and friends spotted four Mallard ducks at the Cranberry Bog in Carlisle on February 8. Mallard ducks are commonly found throughout North America. They spend winter south of Canada throughout all the United States and into Central America. In summer, the Mallard duck population stretches up to southern Canada and into Alaska and the Northwest Territories. The breed is very abundant. Many stay year 'round in the same area.
Distinctive characteristics: The Mallard duck usually grows to about 24 inches long and it is very easy to distinguish a male from a female. The male has a metallic-green head and yellow bill. The back and flanks of the male Mallard duck are grey and the black central tail feathers are curled. The outer tail feathers of the male are white, and the legs are orange. The female has a brown head, an orange bill, a dark brown body speckled with some whiter spots, and unlike the male, her central tail feathers are not curled. Mallard ducklings are dark-greenish above with a dark line through the eye, face and edge of wing. Their bills are flesh-colored and their legs are dark grey.
Dabbling ducks: Mallard ducks are dabbling ducks. They feed in shallow water so they can reach the bottom with their bills. When feeding they tip up so that their tail feathers are sticking vertically out of the water. Their populations experience loss due to lead poisoning. Since they are dabbling ducks, they can pick up spent lead shot from pond and marsh bottoms. A single lead pellet can kill an adult duck.
Diet: Mallard ducks have many different diets. They usually have a lot of vegetables like grain, seeds, acorns and the green part of plants. The roots and stems of aquatic plants are also commonly eaten by Mallard ducks, but they can also eat insects and aquatic animals such as frogs, small fish, and tadpoles. Mallard ducks also adjust to human food such as bread and lettuce.
Habitat: Mallard ducks are commonly seen, and also nest, near edges of lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, marshes, wooded swamps, flooded fields and reservoirs. In the winter some ducks go to lakes and rivers with open water while others go to coastal marshes and bays. Many stay near the same area despite the season. The nest is built from grasses, cattails, and reeds. Seven to ten eggs are laid in a clutch and are incubated for 28 days. Through the nesting season, the plants and trees, which hide the Mallards' nests, begin to die off. The nests then become visible to predators such as raccoons, foxes, skunks, and mink. Crows, gulls, floods, and the farmer's plow can also present danger to the nesting areas.
References: www.nenature.com/mallard.htm; Beginners Guide to Birds in the Eastern Region by Donald and Lillian Stokes.
Eliza Jacobellis is a freshman in Concord Carlisle High School. She has a love of animals and takes care of two horses, a dog, a puppy, a cat, and a lizard. She also loves the outdoors and visits the Cranberry bog daily with her horse and dog. She enjoys nature photography and is interested in veterinary medicine.
Submissions: Congratulations, Eliza, on being the first high school student to submit an article! Everyone is invited to write something for the biodiversity corner of the Mosquito. The rules are simple. The author should be of the species Homo sapiens — but we're flexible; the topic can be any organism found in Carlisle in the wild. Send it to Kay Fairweather, 392 School St, Carlisle or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Striped maple? If anyone has seen a Striped Maple in the wild, I would be interested in hearing about it. They are common in some habitats in Massachusetts but I haven't come across any in Carlisle.
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito