Anas platyrynchos

Mallard pair. ©DUC

These birds are the most abundant and widely distributed duck species in North America.

Appearance

  • Large dabbling duck weighing up to 1.3 kg
  • In breeding plumage, drake (also known as a ‘greenhead’) is easily identified by bright green head, olive yellow bill, brown chest and blue wing patches.
  • Hen is a mottled brown colour overall, with blue wing patches, orange and black bill and orange feet.
  • Both have distinctive white underwings with blue speculum markings in their rear edges.

Breeding

  • One of the first ducks to return to breeding grounds in spring; arrive in breeding pairs as soon as open water is available.
  • Hen lays 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
  • Hen incubates eggs for an average of 28 days and leads brood to wetland within 24 hours of hatching—stays with brood until they are able to fly at about 8 weeks of age.

Habitat: Lakes, ponds, rivers, potholes, woodland pools and surrounding uplands

Range: Breeds throughout majority of Canada and U.S. (Canadian breeding range expanding in east and north due to natural expansion and introduction by humans). Winters in U.S., 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.

Diet: Wetland vegetation, seeds, mollusks, crustaceans, insects and larvae.

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 is attributed to this adaptability.

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