MALLARD, or Common Wild Drake. The wild drake weighs from thirty-six to forty ounces, and measures tweuty-three inches in length and thirty-five in breadth. The bill is of a yellowish-green colour, not very flat, about an inch broad, and two and a half long, from the corners of the mouth to the tip of the nail: the head and upper half of the neck are of a glossy deep changeable green, terminated in the middle of the neck by a white collar, with which it is nearly encircled: the lower part of the neck, breast, and shoulders are of a deep vinous chestnut: the covering scapular feathers are of a kind of silvery white, those underneath rufous; and both are prettily crossed with small waved threads of brown : wing coverts ash: quills brown, and between those intervenes the beautyspot (common in the duck tribe), which crosses the closed wing in a transverse oblique direction; it is of a rich glossy purple, with violet or green reflections, and bordered by a double streak of black and white. The belly is of a pale gray, delicately pencilled, and crossed with numberless narrow waved dusky lines, which, on the sides and long feathers that reach over the thighs, are more strongly and distinctly marked: the upper and under tail coverts, lower part of the hack and rump are black; the latter glossed with green: the four middle tail-feathers are also black, with purple reflections, and, like those of the domestic drake, are stiffly curled upwards; the rest are sharp-pointed, and fade off to the exterior sides, from a brown to a dull white: legs, toes, and webs red.
The plumage of the female is very different from that of the male, and partakes of none of his beauties except the spot on the wings. All the other parts are plain brown, marked with black. She makes her nest, lays from ten to sixteen greenish-white eggs, and rears her young, generally in the most sequestered mosses or bogs, far from the haunts of man, and hidden from his sight among reeds and rushes.
We have known the wild duck to have bred on dry heaths, and three instances of their nests being found in trees: one in an old magpie's nest, situated in a Scotch fir growing on a heath; the two others on the crown of willow pollards near the margin of a stream. For richness and harmony of colour, the mallard can vie with any of the British birds. The cock pheasant, though splendid, looks artificial and tawdry when compared with it. The flavour is delicious to the epicure; and to the sportsman the sight of one springing from a reed bed is delightful. It requires both caution and skill to approach their haunts to get a successful shot, as the mallard is one of the most wary of birds, and delights in lonely and sequestered places; consequently awake to every sound of intrusion on its retirement. In the autumn these birds pass from north to south, and in spring again seek their northern abode. Franklin, in his " Narrative of an Overland Journey from Hudson's Bay, to discover a north-west passage," says," In the spring vast flocks of wild ducks, &c. made their appearance in this northern latitude for the purpose of incubation." Many breed with us, and about March may be found in pairs,
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835
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