Mallard Hen Caught in a Ring-billed Gull Feeding Frenzy

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Mallard caught in a Ring-billed Gull feeding FrenzyMallard caught in a Ring-billed Gull feeding frenzy – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I mentioned in my Raccoon on ice post yesterday that I went out to photograph twice on New Years Day, first at Farmington Bay WMA and then later at a local pond. The light was much better by the time I went to the local pond and there were hundreds of gulls, ducks, Pied-billed Grebes and coots that were on the open water or in the ice.

An older man pulled up in a mid-sized sedan that was full of bread, it appeared the front seat was full, the back seat was full and who knows, maybe his trunk was full too. I think the ducks and gulls are used to this man feeding them bread regularly.

I know bread is bad for the birds and maybe I should say something to the older gentleman but then again maybe feeding the birds is his only joy. I’ll have to think on this.

What happened though was hundreds of gulls and almost all of the mallards came to where he parked his car to throw bread out by flying in or running over the snow-covered grass. It was loud because of the insistent calls of the gulls and the clamorous quacking of the ducks, loud enough to almost be annoying to me. There were numerous squabbles over the food that moved into the sky as the gulls chased after each other on the wing and as the ducks ran to the open water right in front of me to eat their bounty.

I noticed a Mallard hen and was watching and photographing her when the gulls swarmed around her like bees do honey and caught her immediately after a Ring-billed Gull grabbed her bread right out of her bill. I was firing away as all of this happened because I liked all the action but didn’t really think I’d get any usable images of the action happening in front of me.

But then I got home and saw this photo and couldn’t help but laugh because it looks like the Mallard is screaming “They got my food, they got my food!” while the gulls in the background fight over her morsel of bread so I couldn’t resist sharing it here this morning and I hope that it brightens your day and please feel free to add what you think this duck might say if it could talk.

This is not a great image by any means but it is a funny one.

Laughter is good medicine and I love spreading it around.

Life is good.



  1. Jane Chesebrough January 4, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    I have started productive conversations regarding feeding bread to the ducks, etc. with young mothers and their children who made immediate changes but others have told me to “F” off. I was talking with a native woman and her son and the woman told me she used to eat geese when she was younger. I wondered out loud what they tasted like and the man replied that the ones we were looking at probably taste like bread dough.

  2. Heather January 3, 2017 at 10:45 am

    I’ve often wondered the same thing so I just Googled it. Here is a post I found that might make a little more sense on the subject

  3. April Olson January 3, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Great photo, tough call. Liberty Park post signs about bread being harmful to ducks and geese, and recommends other foods. It has helped but I still see a lot of bread.

  4. Laura Culley January 3, 2017 at 9:11 am

    I think if it were me, I’d buy a big bag of nutritious food and print out an article about why bread (and bread products) are bad for them and can even kill them. The first issue being that bread (especially WHITE bread) isn’t good for anybody, and if they’re filling up on that, they’re not eating what they’re supposed to be eating. At the same time I really GET that folks want to feed them and interact with them. That’s great fun! The only part that needs changing is WHAT’s being fed (and oh those pesky ethical issues!).
    But without being too obnoxious on the issue (I have trouble sometimes stepping over that line…sigh), I’d gift him the big bag of nutritious food mentioned above and then leave him to make his own decision.

  5. Patty Chadwick January 3, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Although I’ve heard that bread is bad for birds, I don’t really know why. If it’s the only thing they eat, it would obviously be nutritionally deficient, but if it’s only part of their diet, I wonder why it’s bad for them. There are so many places with”panhandling” ducks, geese and gulls around the country and so many people feed them. I feel sorry for that poor mobbed mallard, I hope she finally got at least some!

  6. Bob McPherson January 3, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Amusing photo, Mia. The duck is obviously upset. The gulls have no shame or compunction. Beautiful picture also.

  7. Stu January 3, 2017 at 6:47 am

    The mallard says “Yeah, sure, go ahead and chow down on that bread and spoil your new year’s resolution. See if I care.”
    Thanks for posting your image and narrative.
    Warmest wishes.

  8. Steven Kessel January 3, 2017 at 6:32 am

    Visitors feed the ducks in our local parks down here in Tucson. I’m conflicted. On the one hand it’s bad for the ducks — the food is bad and they lose their natural wariness about humans. But, on the other hand, I’m photographing species that I never could get close to in the wild. It’s a tough ethical issue, isn’t it?

    • Mia McPherson January 3, 2017 at 6:45 am

      It sure is a tough ethical issue Steven. This gentleman thinks he is being good to the ducks, geese, gulls and coots by feeding them, especially during the winter when food is scarce but it can harm the birds. I have observed the birds there and they seem healthy except for the ones who have been harmed by tangled up fishing line, hooks and sinkers that the fishermen leave behind.

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