In the land of Dracula wild ducks eat small birds
Friday, 30 June 2017

They're usually thought of as placid creatures, happy to accept pieces of bread thrown into rivers by willing passers-by.

But a shocking new study paints ducks in a very different light.

Researchers have captured images of mallard ducks attacking and eating small birds - a behaviour that has never been seen before.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge caught the bizarre behaviour on camera, while filming mallard ducks on a reservoir in Romania.

Mallards normally eat seeds, acorns, berries, plants and insects, and occasionally eat small fish.

But this is the first time they have ever been seen eating other birds.

The researchers saw two small birds - a grey wagtail and black redstart - chased and devoured by the ducks when the landed on the reservoir.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Silviu Petrovan, who led the study, said: 'The poor bird landed on the water and was screaming and trying to navigate itself out of danger.

'Then it was almost instantaneously attacked by the mallards.'

The researchers have scanned previous records, but have found no examples of such behaviour.

Dr Petrovan said: 'The mallard was massively struggling to eat that wagtail, presumably because it couldn't actually tear it to pieces because the bill is flattened - it's not designed for ripping prey apart.

'Digesting bones and feathers - that's not something that mallards have really evolved to do.'

While this is the first time that ducks have been seen eating other birds, it isn't the first time they've been spotted eating something unusual.

Mallards in California have previously been seen going into the sea to eat sand crabs, which researchers believe could be to find new sources of high-energy protein.

Dr Petrovan said: 'Potentially there is quite a lot of pressure for those fast-growing juveniles to get animal protein intake, and therefore they are looking at opportunities to supplement that.

'But, the fact that these individuals seem to have learnt how to hunt birds is pretty extraordinary.' 


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