Mallard — Ducks Unlimited Canada Skip to main content
Wetland Waterfowl and Wildlife Identification


Did you know

Mallard are a large dabbling duck. In breeding plumage, drakes (also known as a “greenhead”) are easily identified by a bright green head, white band on neck, olive yellow bill, brown chest and blue wing patches. Hens are mottled brown overall, with blue wing patches, orange and black bills and orange feet. Both have distinct white underwings with blue speculum markings in their rear edges. 

The mallard can leave the water in a nearly vertical take-off, by smacking its wings on the surface and pushing down with its tail feathers.

Common name: Mallard
Scientific name: Anas platyrynchos
Diet: Omnivorous
Average life span: 5-10 years
Length: 50-65 cm
Weight: 720-1600 g

Food & Habitat

Mallards can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, potholes, woodland pools and surrounding uplands.

They dabble for wetland vegetation, seeds, mollusks, crustaceans, insects and larvae.

Breeding & Population

One of the first ducks to return to breeding grounds in spring; they arrive in breeding pairs as soon as open water is available. The hen will lay one egg a day for a full nest of 8-12 eggs often near the site where she herself hatched. Hens will re-nest up to four times if a nest is destroyed or abandoned. Hens incubate eggs for an average of 28 days and lead their broods to wetlands within 24 hours of hatching—staying with their brood until they are able to fly at about 8 weeks of age.

Mallards breed throughout majority of Canada and United States (Canadian breeding range expanding in east and north due to natural expansion and introduction by humans). Females tend to nest where they were born, sometimes returning to the exact same place year after year – usually within one kilometre of a wetland.


They winter in United States, northern Mexico and southern Canada (as long as open water and food are available). Most widely distributed dabbler in the world also breeds in Europe and Asia. Most abundant North American duck.

Interesting facts

  • With the exception of the muscovy duck, mallards are the predecessors of all domestic ducks; they have been domesticated in Southeast Asia for over 2000 years and in Europe since at least the 12th century.
  • Mallards interbreed with black ducks, northern pintails, gadwall, cinnamon teal and green-winged teal; scientists believe that interbreeding between black ducks and mallards may be a cause for concern for the black duck population
  • Mallards are highly adaptive to varied environments and human activity. Nesting takes place in urban settings including backyards. Their wide range and abundance are attributed to this adaptability.