The Duck Wars on Carillon Stonegate Pond: Mating Season
There was quite the commotion on Carillon Stonegate Pond recently. Much splashing; flopping of the wings. It looked like the ducks - specifically Mallards - were at war.
Made sense. It’s mating season and these four (4) ducks - looked like drakes - were battling for their territory. Carillon Stonegate Pond was not large enough for them all.
But there were not four (4) drakes. There were three (3) drakes and a single female.
Why were these Mallard drakes attacking this lone female Mallard? It turns out that one of the drakes was the female’s mate, who was trying to intervene - not very successfully. This attack went on for more than 10 minutes and eventually moved onto land.
The Mallard drakes were attempting to mate with this female. Duck mating can be surprisingly brutal. In the waterfowl world, this is called forced mating or forced extrapair copulation (FEPC). It is thought that Mallard drakes that have been unsuccessful in mating engage in this behavior. Apparently it is in their genes to reproduce even when unsuccessful at finding a mate.
The Mallard hen (female) frees herself and will attempt to flee this group. It is thought that female resistance to an extrapair partner is her way to select a higher quality partner. As she flees, her mate will continue to battle these other drakes.
But the group eventually catches up with the hen on land. And one of the offending drakes will attempt to mate. Afterwards, the hen and her mate flee and the next day are seen on the pond again.
This is the animal world and sometimes they engage in disturbing behaviors - Darwinian?