Skip to Content

Mallard Identification

Mallard pair

Mallard  —  Length: 23 inches,  Wing span: 35 inches

Because of its abundance and near-total occupation of North America, the Mallard is often considered the standard duck against which all others are compared. Most domestic duck strains are derived from Mallards, and interbreeding with these strains results in feral populations inhabiting urban and rural ponds in many places.

Mallards go through a number of courtship rituals when pairing up in winter for the coming nesting season, but once nesting is over, they are quite gregarious for the remainder of the year. More than a half-dozen other species of ducks have been known to lay eggs in Mallard nests.

Mallard male

Green head with narrow white band at base of neck.  Bill can appear dark.  Yellow bill.  Pale flanks.  Pale back with subtle brown markings.  Black and white tail.  Photograph © Sam Crowe.

Mallard female

Females are mainly brown.  Note the dark brown and light tan color pattern of the feathers.  Tail spotted underneath.  Blue to purple speculum edged with black and white.  Dark line through the eye.  Bill is orange with black markings.  The bill on this bird is unusually dark. Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Male Mallard side view

Photograph © Tom Grey.

Mallard male molting

This is apparently a molting male but the plumage may be the result of hybridizing with another species.  Males in breeding plumage closely resemble females but have an olive-colored bill.

Mallard female

Female Mallard. Photograph © Sam Crowe.


Photograph © Sam Crowe.

Notice the color of the bill on the two female Mallards above and the one below.  The amount of black on the bill is variable.

Female Mallard

Photograph © Sam Crowe.

Male mallard in flight

Pale wing linings with darker trailing edge.  Photograph © Glenn Bartley.

Male mallard in flight

Note the black and white tail pattern, along with the color pattern of the speculum. Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Male mallard in flight - front view

Bright yellow bill, head appears bluish.  Note tail shape and color pattern.  Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Male mallard in flight - side view

Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Male mallard in eclipse plumage

Male in non-breeding plumage. The yellow bill is obtaining its dull olive color.  Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Female mallard in flight

Great photo of female Mallard in flight.  The purple speculum is clearly edged with black and white. Photograph © Glenn Bartley.

Female mallard in flight

Female in flight. Wing linings resemble that of the male.  Photograph © Glenn Bartley.

Female mallard in flight

Photograph © Glenn Bartley.

Female mallard in flight from the front

Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Female mallard in flight

Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Mallard pair in flight

Females. Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Mallard in flight

White wing linings contrast with darker trailing edge of the underwing. Photograph © Steve Wolfe.

Mallard flock in flight

Males and females in flight. Photograph © Steve Wolfe.


Mallard pairs. The head of the male can appear black or bright green. Photograph © Sam Crowe.

Mallard with shovelers

Photograph © Sam Crowe.

This photograph has 3 Mallards with their heads up and 2 shovelers with their heads down. The rusty sides of the male Northern Shoveler make it a fairly obvious I.D. The female shoveler is headed in the opposite direction. It is very similar to the female Mallard on the left but notice slightly redder hue to the side of the duck. Also notice the broad, pale edges to the feathers on both females.

Mallard crosss

A typical domesticated or park mallard. Plumages highly variable.


About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

Let others know your thoughts or ask an expert

Would you like to get new articles of birds (Once a month?)

No SPAM! We might only send you fresh updates once a month

Thank you for subscribing!

No thanks! I prefer to follow BirdZilla on Facebook