I saw three families of mallards on a pond at one of our golf courses, eight or nine in each bunch, and the familial closeness of them was touching. In all three cases the father and mother were right there to shepherd the little ones around the ponds. One group was engaged in practice dives. These little walnut-sized bits of fluff would tip their heads down and pop under the surface for two or three seconds, then pop up again. So cute. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was they were diving for. Some subsurface food maybe. Or more likely, just for the fun of it.
But I was reminded of that brutal scene I witnessed at another of our courses a month or so ago. The state conservation people had taken most of the female mallards out of the pond, so the remaining males tend to get horny with no resources available. That makes for mallard male homosexuality. Any port in a storm, so to speak. I noticed a male attacking another male out near the middle of the pond. He was literally riding the other’s back and pecking him fiercely on the head, even holding his head underwater as he had his way with him. And right behind this duo were another three or four males. Whenever the attacked one managed to get away momentarily the others would fight over whose turn it was. I can’t imagine anything more brutal taking place in a prison shower room. He would somehow manage to free himself and fly to shore, but the others were right behind him and proceeded to nail him there as well. My point is that here I am, so enamored of this idyllic scene of mallard family life and just a month earlier I saw mallards behaving like cell block bullies. It didn’t matter to them if they killed the one they were attacking as long as they got their sexual way with him. No sweet, comic little Disney characters these guys. We tend to romanticize creatures in nature, and every now and then nature has to slap us in the face to remind us that it’s still a jungle out there, and that we’re not so far removed from that jungle that we can ignore the brutality inherent in nature as well as in human nature.