More ducks than is usual

Pensive duck
A pensive duck recently.

Is it my imagination, or are there more ducks than is usual for the time of year flying about at the moment? Not significantly more, but noticeably more. Noticeable enough that, if you happened to have a website where you were prone to make observations of such a nature, you would probably mention it on the off-chance that you had actually noticed something rather profound. I admit it seems unlikely, but you never know: perhaps there's a reason why there are noticeably more ducks flying around than is usual for the time of year. Or perhaps it really is just my imagination.

They're mallards mostly, from what I can tell at the sort of distances I'm talking about. Actually, I haven't mentioned distances yet, but I'm just about to: 50 to 100 yards, approximately. They tend to be flying very fast, very low and very determinedly in a straight line, quite often in an easterly direction. I suppose they could be the same ducks going round and round, but this seems unlikely, bearing in mind how very determinedly they are flying in a straight line. Not to say impossible.

Ducks are surprisingly fast fliers. In fact, I'm pretty sure my edition of The Guinness Book of Records from some time in the 1970s said that the fastest horizontal bird flight ever measured was that of a mallard. I forget the speed. Peregrine falcons can reach faster speeds, of course, but only in a vertical stoop.

A surprising thing I've noticed about ducks' flight while I've been observing the noticeably more of them than is usual for the time of year recently is how short their wing-beats are. They're very short indeed, bearing in mind the horizontal speeds they achieve. Ducks take tiny wing-beats, but travel at great speed.

There's a lesson for us all there, I think.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. At the risk of sounding condescending to a country person such as yourself; I think you will find that the mild winter has caused many creatures to manage to fit in an extra mating season prior to their normal slot. I know that my wife & I hav.....aaarrrhhh!

    Sorry.....squirrels in particular woke up early from their hibernation & got down to a bit of hanky panky long before the urge should have taken them.

    Did you know that gerbils can be pregnant with a second batch before they drop the first lot? That means separating the sexes before they are of breeding age.

  2. Two ducks flying over Belfast.

    One says "Quack! Quack!"

    The other says "Ah canna go ony quacker!"

  3. A pedant writes...

    (Adopt slightly nasal twang) I think you will find the swift is the fastest bird in horizontal flight. Good use of the word stoop though.

  4. And I think you will find that, while swifts are relatively fast for their size, in terms of actual ground-speed, mallards are faster. I read that in a book somewhere, but don't ask me which one.

  5. In fact, according to this list of bird-related records, the fastest level-flight measured for a bird was that of a red-breasted merganser at 161 km/h (100 mph). A red-breasted merganser is a type of duck.

    The swallow, however, is the strongest bird for its weight, as it has been known to carry coconuts from the tropics. I didn't read that in the lists; I heard it in a film somewhere.

  6. I find that hard to swallow.

    You didn't hear the coconut fact in a Pixar film by any chance? Or was there more than one swallow (maybe thirty or so) carrying the coconut?

  7. Today I sat on Wareham Quay & observed first hand, the mating habits of mallard ducks. More like a gang bang, if you ask me. The poor girl nearly drowned. Funnily enough, after she made good her escape, she flew around a bit & then landed back on the water in the same spot where she had been accosted & it started all over again.

    That's women for you!

  8. Also Scene 35.

    Andthere's a rference to a duck in Scene 36.

    Coincidence? You decide.

  9. As a child my uncle used to enjoy throwing hot chips to ducks and enjoyed their distress when they picked them up. He went on to become a Franciscan priest. St Francis preached to birds.

    (Glad I previewed that, I wrote ' chips to dicks...')

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