Gaense is known to kill ducks

Food chain: when the duck becomes a hunter

Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) are a common sight on lakes and rivers and are by far the most common water birds here on land. In principle, in addition to the bread of supposed animal lovers, the animals mainly eat plants, seeds, fruits and smaller animal foods that are easily accessible - such as larvae, mollusks, crabs, tadpoles or small fish. If there is a lack of food, however, they can obviously resort to more drastic methods, as Silviu Petrovan from the University of Cambridge and Mihai Leu from the Veterinary and Food Safety Authority in Strada accidentally observed on a lake in southwest Romania. In at least two cases, mallards hunted young songbirds that had fallen into the water, as the two researchers reported in "Waterbirds". Such behavior had not previously been recorded in mallards.

As the "BBC" reports (here also pictures), Petrovan was with friends to watch birds when they noticed the foray. The biologist saw how a female duck grabbed a wagtail with her beak and repeatedly pushed it under water to drown it. She then swallowed the victim. In the second case, a black redstart fell into the water and tried to escape from the danger zone. But the female who had already been in action attacked again - this time together with her own offspring. Petrovan and co. Could not exactly track the fate of this bird: Either it drowned in the end and sank or it was also swallowed.

"This behavior is either very rare or has been learned from scratch," Petrovan told the BBC. The mallard must have had great problems devouring the prey. "It can't tear them apart with its flat beak. And the ducks haven't evolved to digest feathers and bones." The attacks may be related to the type of habitat the ducks inhabit on site. It is a deep reservoir. There it may be difficult for the ducks to find suitable food - they usually eat in shallow water. In California, mallards have therefore already dodged into the sea to catch crabs, even though they are actually freshwater inhabitants. In any case, Petrovan is impressed by the behavior: "It's fascinating that these animals somehow learned to prey on birds."