Mallard Duckling

Today seemed like a good day for a photo of a mallard duckling.  Ducklings of most any sort can be counted on to make a person feel good.  There’s something cool about baby animals. I guess the sight of babies of almost anything warm blooded hits some buttons deep in the primal parts of our brains.

That gut reaction is something you can take advantage of as a photographer. Almost any half decent shot of a cute baby animal will create some positive feelings in your audience. And spring is here, so the next several weeks will be full of baby squirrels, birds as well as dogs and cats and every other warm blooded creature you can imagine.

One problem with photographing baby animals is mom. Parents are naturally protective so it’s a good idea to use longer focal lengths. Otherwise you might find yourself under attack.

Most photographers are smart enough to use extreme caution if they were to find bear cubs, mountain lion kittens or baby crocodiles. My guess is that the less than cautious members of our avocation are no longer with us, or if they survived the encounter, they’ve developed a different approach. Even so, a blitz attack by mother goose would not be much fun.

So far I’ve been able to avoid the mother goose attacks. Mostly by just staying low and watching the nearby moms. When you start to get that little bit too close Mom will change her body language, she’ll focus on you or even start advancing. When I see that I just back off a bit. So far so good, but that strategy is likely not 100% reliable. When photographing waterfowl with young I almost always take some food with me. The ducks and geese that inhabit local ponds and parks are usually at least somewhat habituated to humans so it’s easier to get them to come to you. It’s not like you’re going to sneak up on them. I haven’t tried this in the wild, but I suspect some kind of blind would be required to get portrait or intimate shots. It’s much better to have some kind of plan. At least you’re starting a learning process that will eventually lead you to a good shot.

Factoid Fun
Ducks are precocial, which means that they hatch with their eyes open and their bodies covered with protective down. Most ducklings are able to leave the nest within hours and can move around and forage for food. They typically stay with their parents for several weeks while they learn how to find food. The parents also provide protection and warmth at night.


the Mallard at Cornell Ornithology