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Though male and female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) are so different they were originally thought to be two different species, today they are what almost everyone imagines when they hear or read the word ‘duck’, and they are the bird people most love to feed with old scraps of bread. Please don’t! As Britain’s Canal and River Trust has often warned, with 6 million loaves being thrown into canals, lakes and waterways every year, bread is a serious problem. Not only is it bad for the ducks’ environment, it’s not very healthy for the ducks either. Click on this link to read about the more natural alternatives.

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British folklore has many charming references to mallards and weather forecasting, like this: ‘If ducks fly backwards and forwards, and continually plunge in water and wash themselves incessantly, wet weather will ensure.’ In Scotland, there’s a similar saying: ‘When ducks are driving through the burn [darting through the stream], / that night the weather takes a turn.’ And here’s one from Sussex: ‘If there’s ice at Martinmas will bear a duck / There’ll be nothing after but sludge and muck.’ Obviously, the nation’s weather forecasters should be watching the mallards, not their charts and satellite maps!

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