Where Are You Mal?


Five years ago I noticed a larger that average mallard living on Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve. It’s not easy to tell one mallard from another, I know, but there are times when one individual stands head and shoulders above the rest. Mal, a loner, is now missing; I’ve not seen him for six weeks or more. I was able to identify Mal because he was steadfast: the big mallard that didn’t fly away on my approach.

One day, I stood watching this duck sunning itself on a tree stump at the edge of North Pond. A fox hidden in the reeds attacked and knocked Mal from his perch. Unperturbed, this courageous mallard immediately and viciously set-about pecking the living daylights out of the stunned red dog until it gave up and ran away.

I rarely get attached to individual animals, but the spirit of this duck impressed me. If a marsh foxes has eaten Mal, I feel natural selection might have lost out in this instance. I hope Mal managed to pass on his genes.

Mallards can live well into their 20s.


Mal on his favourite perch

11 Comments on “Where Are You Mal?

    • Since Wilden Marsh is part of a wildlife corridor, animals come and go, but Mal has lived on the Marsh a long time. If he returns, I will let you know. 🙂

    • I don’t think your run-of-the-mill mallard would go anywhere near a fox. Like humans, though, there is alway one person prepared to fight all comers; I guess the same applies to mallards. 🙂

  1. Those foxes are wily characters, so Mal must have been a very courageous bird to fight back. I hope he reappears in the future. I suppose he could have flown to another marsh or location?

    • I’ve seen foxes take and kill mallards with ease, many times. I think the mistake the fox made with Mal, was not being able to grab the duck first strike. Also, ducks don’t usually attack, they flee. So the ferocity and determination of Mal’s attack confused the fox’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Foxes are cautious creatures of habit that mostly avoid situations that might cause them harm. It is very possible that Mal has moved to pastures new.

    • Since mallards are ubiquitous and predictable, most people don’t give them a second thought.

      Do you know the male and female mallards are flightless during the summer moult?

  2. I’m sure Mal has passed on his genes over the last 5 years. Perhaps one of your new foxes is more highly evolved and knows how to deal with troublesome drakes.

    • One of the things I’ve learned is that some animals have supper survival instincts, whether it be a mouse or a fox; this is ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘natural selection’ working their magic. Animals less capable are killed or oppressed. I might have misnamed Mal: Rambo might be more appropriate.

      If Mall is dead, he has not passed unnoticed.

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