Yellow-billed Ducks (Anas undulata). Fancourt, George, South Africa.

All images in this sequence were captured with a Canon EOS R3 with a Canon RF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM lens. Handheld. Exposures set manually.

I had been out early one morning with the objective of trying out some different AF settings on my Canon R3 to find optimal functionality for birds in flight photography.  After spending some time doing this, I passed a small pond on the way back home.  There were the usual pair of Little Grebes in the water and then I spotted a pair of Yellow-billed Ducks emerging from the longer grass on the side of the pool.  Unfortunately they were on the far side of he pool.  They are usually very skittish so I was hesitant to try to move closer.  I also only had the R3 and an RF 400mm f/2.8L lens – also without any extenders.  I felt I shouldn’t waste much time photographing them, but then I noticed some behaviour that I thought would develop into a mating sequence.  All I could do was to handhold the rig and hope for the best.  I had to crop rather heavily in post processing to get reasonable images.

The pair were at first sort of circling each other and touching bills as you can see in the above image.  Then the male moved alongside the female and started submerging his head into the water and then lifting it straight up again.  He did this numerous times.  The two images below show the down and up positions.


The male continued with this bill-dipping behaviour with the female in close proximity.  She then seemed to turn around and “present” herself.  Her tail and wing feathers seemed to spread.  You can see this in the following image.

The male then mounted the female pushing her body under the water.  This was accompanied by quite a lot of neck pecking.   I am not sure how deep the water was but as you will see in some of the next images, she was at times totally submerged.

Whilst he is on her back, you can see her tail emerging on his right side.  This becomes more apparent as the act goes on. She almost appears elongated and at times you can just see the colour of her bill under the water.  The following few images illustrate this.

He then disengages.

I thought this was then the end, but the male then seemed to kind of “show off” by puffing up his chest and arching backwards.  May be the “grand finale”.  See below.

They then scooted off together and parted ways.  I have been back to the pond to see if they were nesting there but have not seen them again.

It was certainly an exciting experience. The whole sequence was captured over 1 minute and 50 seconds during which 192 images were captured.  You don’t actually see all the detail whilst capturing the images.  The wonder of it all is only evident when you download and process all the pictures.  I do wish I had had my 600mm lens with a 1.4x converter on it handy.