Mallard, Drake (Photo: Laurie Campbell)
Although you would normally see mallard ducks on ponds and freshwater lochs, in Harris they are often seen feeding on the saltmarsh.
The male duck, or drake, has a beautiful green head and a curly tail, with a bright yellow beak.
Mallard (Photo: Cliff Reddick)
The females are brown and speckly, with a brown beak. Only the female duck says the famililar ‘quack, quack’. Both males and female mallards have a bluey purple patch on the wings.
The adult ducks feed by dipping their heads under the surface of the water with their tails up (dabbling). The ducklings are surprisingly good divers. Mallards will eat almost anything, from plants to frogs.
In autumn, the mallard loses its feathers and grows new ones. This is called moulting. Whilst they are growing the new feathers, the ducks cannot fly. At this time the drake needs to be more camouflaged so it starts to look like a female duck, all brown and speckly. This is called eclipse plumage. You can still tell the females ducks from the drakes, as the drakes still have the yellow beaks.
by Alison Tyler