Drake Mallards Bathing and Splashing

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Drake Mallard bathing and splashingDrake Mallard bathing and splashing – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Every time I post Mallards on my blog my daily stats take a nose dive, I’m guessing some people don’t find these dabbling ducks all that interesting and that is fine by me but because they are the first ducks I remember seeing and interacting with as a child I feel a connection to them and love to watch and photograph them as they go about the business of being ducks. I recall that my mom even knitted sweaters for family members with Mallards on them when I was about 6 or 7 years old.

Yesterday while looking for birds to photograph I saw a small flock of Mallards at a local pond who swam out into the water where several of them began to bathe. When one of these birds starts to bathe it seems that others soon follow.

I loved how in this image the drake appeared to be giving me the stink eye through a sheath of water covering its back, bill, head and eyes.

Mallard drake taking a bathMallard drake taking a bath – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The ducks dip the front of their bodies under the water then shake it around as they raise their heads back up while wiggling their tails and rocking back and forth. I guess you could say they dive head first into their baths.

Some of the drake Mallards are sporting their breeding plumage now, some are not quite there yet but they soon will be.

Bathing male MallardBathing male Mallard – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

This drake Mallard seemed aware of the sound of my shutter as I fired away but that didn’t seem to dampen his desire to bathe.

I have read that bathing and the sequence of movements during the process of bathing can be a means of communication for this species and other species of birds. It is obviously more subtle than calls, courtship behaviors or territorial disputes but after many years of observing and photographing birds it does make sense to me that they are communicating.

Mallard drake flapping its wings after bathingMallard drake flapping its wings after bathing – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

After bathing the Mallards lift up, flap their wings and shake the water off and I have also noticed them repeat the process of bathing several times in succession. Bathe, shake, flap. I don’t know what they are saying, I’m just a bird photographer after all and I have never learned to speak duck.

Life is good.



  1. Marty K November 22, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Just because Mallards are plentiful, does not negate their beauty. I especially like the last shot.

    We have a neighborhood sord of Mallards that go from yard to yard even though I don’t think anyone’s feeding them. I’ll stop during my morning walks and spend time with them and the local Coots.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Elephants Child November 22, 2017 at 11:18 am

    I would give the stink eye (at least) to any uninvited photographer present at my bath.
    But am grateful for your intrusions.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Laura Culley November 22, 2017 at 10:04 am

    I’ve always loved mallards–just because. I’ve always wondered how they get water to penetrate through those DENSE feathers? I know that they can adjust feather density, but really–that density is something to behold!
    Thank you so much for your (almost) daily posts. You and Ron make my day every day, beginning it with the joy of birds. That’s a very special thing to me, and you guys are a huge blessing in my life. Thank you!
    And happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

  4. Cindy November 22, 2017 at 9:41 am

    At our last house we had a pond and the Mallards would come every year. In 2012 they actually laid eggs and of the six only three survived. I read this is typical. It was a daily delight to see what they were up to and how attentive the mother was to her young. One time that summer a hawk swooped down and was within 2 feet of getting the mom but something spooked him and he flew off. Whew! I was sad to see them fly off and yet, it was a gift to be allowed into their world. Happy Thanksgiving Patty and all. Thankful for your gifts Mia and that you share them with the world.

  5. Patty Chadwick November 22, 2017 at 8:34 am

    Interesting series…it’s also interesring how so many species bathe one way or another…even the common house fly cleans its wings and face….
    HAPPY THANKSGIVING’ everyone, especislly you, Mia. I’m thankful fir knowing you…

  6. shoreacres November 22, 2017 at 6:36 am

    I live at the edge of a marina, and mallards are a delightful part of my life. I never get tired of seeing their antics, and always appreciate it when someone with your skills takes the time to capture and share them.

  7. Liz Cormack November 22, 2017 at 6:15 am

    There were two Mallard drakes having a disagreement of epic proportions this morning at our local pond. They would stop fighting, then proceed to bathe, shake, flap & go right back at it again.

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