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Description of the Mallard

BREEDING MALE

The most familiar of North American ducks, the Mallard is a large, heavy duck with white bars above and below a bluish speculum visible on spread wings.

Breeding males have a dark green head, yellow bill, reddish breast, and a pale body.  Length: 23 in.  Wingspan: 35 in.

mallard

 

mallard mle side aw
Photograph © Alan Wilson.

 

Mallard male flight aw
Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Female

Female Mallards have an orange bill with black markings, and are mostly brownish with a tan eyeline.

mallard

 

Mallard f gb
Photograph © Glenn Bartley.

 

mallaerd female back aw
Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Seasonal change in appearance

Fall males resemble females.

Juvenile

Juvenile Mallards resemble adult females.

Habitat

Marshes, grain field, city parks, or nearly any water body including ponds, lakes or rivers.

Diet

A wide variety of plant material, insects, tadpoles, frogs, small fish, and many other items.

Behavior

Forages by “dabbling”, tipping forward in the water and submerging its head to feed.

Range

The Mallard occurs throughout most of North America, and has an increasing population trend.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Malard.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

Most strains of domesticated ducks in North America are descendents of Mallards.

The Mallard’s tolerance of both temperature variation and human disturbance, along with its varied diet, help make it the most abundant and widely distributed duck in North America.

Vocalizations

Females give the "quack" most people consider the "typical" duck sound.

Nesting

Nests on the ground, in a hollow within grasses or reeds.  Also uses artificial nesting structures placed over water.

Number: Usually 8-12 eggs.
Color: Pale greenish.

Incubation and fledging:
Young hatch at about 26-29 days and leave the nest almost immediately, and are able to fly at about 7-8 weeks.