Mallard Ducklings - Single File

It seems like a lot of people love baby ducks. They are adorable, there can be no argument about that. They are tiny and helpless, and don’t have a care in the world. They’re just out there enjoying life and consuming calories as fast as possible.

This is my second shoot of a couple of mallard family groups at a local pond. The hen is still guarded about letting this photographer get close, but the long lens can overcome some of that. If there is a secret to photographing young animals of any kind, it’s staying low to the ground and not making sudden moves. Once you blend in, they mostly ignore you. Ducks get habituated to humans easily so long as they’re not threatened.  I’m pretty sure the hen would be a vengeful mom if you got too close to baby ducks.

Another cool thing I’ve noticed is that already these ducklings have individual personalities. There are a few that are more adventurous than the others, they will take off exploring on their own. A few more are already becoming leaders, while others rarely venture far from mother. The little groups they form are constantly changing, sometimes they group together, as many as 16 in a loose cluster. 10 minutes later there will be several smaller groups with some singles and pairs.

Mallard Ducklings - Brother and Sister

Trying to choose your shots and compose frames is a challenge. As soon as you pick out a group, a few ducklings will immediately swim into or out of the shot, and getting a half duckling at the edge of the frame messes up a lot of otherwise nice shots. It’s frustrating but you have to keep going. They’ll give you a good composition if you’re patient.

Mallard Hen with Ducklings

I wanted to try something different this time, so all of these shots were done with my Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro lens. Quite a strange choice for wildlife photography, but I also used the tele-converter which makes it effectively a 147mm lens. Then add the crop factor for the APS-C sensor and your out to 225mm. And that’s enough for subjects this size at a range of 10-15 feet. There is no zoom of course, but it’s quite a compact and light weight system compared to the typical 70-200 f/2.8 zoom. In photography everything is a trade off. Trying new things is part of the enjoyment, and often the way you get a surprising shot.


Cornell Ornithology Lab on Mallards


Factoid Fun
It is a myth that a duck’s quack won’t echo. This has been conclusively disproved through different scientific acoustic tests, and was even featured as “busted” on an episode of the Discovery Channel show Mythbusters.