Mallards are one of the most well-known ducks in the world, found in many habitats, including wetlands, parks, and backyard ponds.
Female Mallards, also known as hens, are an important part of this species’ continuation, as they are responsible for raising and protecting their offspring.
If you’ve ever wondered how to distinguish between female and male Mallards, look no further; we have all the information you need!
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Female vs Male Mallards
Male and female Mallards can be distinguished by several characteristics. Males have a striking appearance with a dark iridescent green head, white neck ring, gray body, brown breast, and black rear.
On the other hand, females have mottled brown feathers with a darker brown cap and stripe through the eyes, and their plumage is designed for camouflage, unlike the colorful feathers of males.
Additionally, male mallards have a bright yellow bill, whereas females have a brown to mottled brown-and-orange bill, and males have thicker necks compared to females. Moreover, male mallards have curled tail feathers, which are not present in females. Females are generally smaller and lighter than males.
In terms of behavior, female mallards tend to be more vocal, producing a wider range of sounds compared to males. Overall, these differences make it easy to distinguish between male and female mallards.
|Fewer females than males.
|Outnumber the females.
|Smaller and lighter on average.
Length: 24 inches
Weight: 2.4 pounds
|Larger and heavier on average.
Length: 24.7 inches
Weight: 2.7 pounds
|Colors are meant for camouflage.
Brown to mottled orange and brown bill.
Bright yellow bill tipped with black.
Curled feather near the tail.
Looks more similar to females during molting.
|Mottled buff to very dark brown.
Darker brown cap and stripe through the eyes.
|Dark iridescent green head.
Gray body, brown breast, black rear.
White neck ring.
|May become aggressive during the breeding season.
Builds the nest, incubates, and takes care of the offspring.
|More aggressive during the breeding season. During confrontations, may bob their heads, threaten with an open bill, push against the other, and even scratch other males.
During courtship, shake their head from side to side, raise up on the water and flap their wings, look over their shoulder.
Provide no parental care.
Go through a molt.
|Louder and more vocal.
Series of 2-10 loud quacks that get softer.
The typical sound we associate with ducks.
Same quack, but quieter and deeper.
One- or two-noted.
Male and female Mallards look very different and are rather easy to distinguish. Males have distinctive iridescent green heads, white collars, brown chests, and gray bodies. They also have a curled tail feather.
Females are mottled brown and have a dark cap and eye stripe. Both have blue speculums that are bordered with white.
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However, males in their nonbreeding plumage, also known as eclipse plumage, look rather similar to females. When females are occupied with raising the young, males gather and go through a molt during which they become temporarily flightless.
Their eclipse plumage is a dull brown and although some green iridescence remains, it, too, will be replaced with brown feathers. You can always recognize a male Mallard by its bright yellow bill and a female by its brown or brown-and-orange one!
There are several ways to distinguish between male and female Mallards based on behavior. Both male and female mallards can become aggressive during the breeding season, but males are typically more aggressive.
They may bob their heads, threaten with an open bill, push against each other, and even scratch other males during confrontations. Males significantly outnumber females, so they may also be aggressive towards females, sometimes brutally forcing an unmated female to copulate.
During courtship, both males and females engage in certain behaviors. Males shake their heads from side to side, look over their shoulders, and raise up on the water flapping their wings.
However, male Mallards provide no parental care. Females are responsible for building the nest, incubating the eggs, and caring for the offspring. After hatching, the female will lead the ducklings to food and water sources and provide protection from predators.
You can also differentiate between males and females based on the sounds they make.
Female Mallards are generally louder and have a wider repertoire than males, also producing the quacks that we typically associate with ducks.
They produce a series of 2-10 loud quacks that get softer and quieter towards the end and a unique call to locate and gather the ducklings.
Male Mallards produce the same quack sound as the females, but theirs is quieter, deeper, and raspier. They also produce fewer notes, usually only 1-2, in contrast to the longer quack series produced by the female. Males can also create a rattling noise by rubbing their bill against their flight feathers in a display towards their mate.
It’s worth noting that Mallards are capable of producing a variety of other sounds, including hisses, whistles, and growls, but these are less common and not typically used for sex differentiation.
How to Tell a Younger Mallard’s Gender
To tell the difference between a younger mallard’s gender, four methods can be used at different stages, including vocalizations, body shape, plumage, and vent sexing.
Female ducklings tend to be louder and more vocal than males. They produce loud peeps and randomly insert raspy cough-like sounds into the mix. Males make monotone peeps. At about 10 weeks of age, they reach their “vocal maturity” and begin to produce gender-specific sounds.
Even as ducklings, males tend to have bigger feet and longer, wider-spaced legs than females. Their bodies are also taller and wider. However, females start to sprout wing feathers first. On the other hand, if you notice green feathers or black curly tail feathers, then you know you’re looking at a drake.
As a last resort but a surefire way to tell the gender as early as 1-2 days of age, you can use vent sexing. This should only be done by a professional as it can permanently injure them.
Mallards have one, rarely two broods in a year with 1-15, usually 7-10 eggs in a clutch. The whitish-to-grayish or olive-buff eggs are 2-2.5 inches long and 1.5-1.8 inches wide. Female Mallard is the sole caretaker and incubates them for 23-30 days.
Newly hatched ducklings are already alert and covered in down. They’re ready to leave the nest in less than a day after hatching. The mother bird leads them to the water where they search for their own food under her guidance and protection.
This parental care and protection extends until the ducklings fledge, which happens around 50-60 days after hatching, at which point they become independent. Mallards reach sexual maturity at one year of age.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a female Mallard called?
A female Mallard is called a hen.
What color is a female Mallard duck?
Female Mallards are mottled brown.
Do female Mallards have blue on their wings?
Female Mallards have blue speculums on their wings.
Why do female Mallards quack?
Female Mallards quack to indicate that they’ve found a mate or claimed a nesting spot. They also quack to communicate with their ducklings.
In conclusion, male and female Mallards can be easily distinguished based on several characteristics, including appearance, behavior, and sounds. Male Mallards have a striking appearance with iridescent green heads, yellow bills, thicker necks, and curled tail feathers.
Females, on the other hand, have mottled brown feathers for camouflage, with brown to mottled brown-and-orange bills, and slenderer necks.
Male Mallards are typically more aggressive during the breeding season, engage in courtship behaviors, but provide no parental care, while females build the nest, incubate the eggs, and care for the offspring.
Female Mallards also tend to be louder and more vocal, with a wider repertoire of sounds compared to males.