From rivers to ponds to lakes to golf course water hazards, the mallard is one of the most common, widespread and well known water fowl in the Northern Hemisphere. As the ancestor for most domestic breeds of ducks, this bird species is easy to find and recognize for all types of birders.
Mallard, Mallard Duck
- Bill: Long and tapered, flattened shape
- Size: 20-23 inches long with a boat-like body shape and 30-40-inch wingspan
- Colors: Green, yellow, white, black, violet, brown, gray, orange
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have an iridescent green head, thin white neck band, reddish-brown chest, gray-brown back, white flanks and underparts and a yellow bill. Two dark tail feathers have a distinctive upward curl. Female birds have mottled brown and black plumage, a dark streak through the eyes and an orange and brown bill. Both genders have orange legs and feet and a violet-blue patch of wing feathers bordered by white.
Aquatic plants, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, seeds
Habitat and Migration:
Mallards are widespread, year-round residents of many areas, though extreme northern and southern populations may migrate seasonally, particularly if there are no artificial food sources available. Mallards can frequently be found near any shallow freshwater source, including lakes, rivers, ponds and man-made water features such as backyard ponds and drainage canals.
Mallards are vocal when in flocks and frequently use calls to alert other ducks to enemies or food. The loud, distinctive “quack-quack-quack” call is an all purpose vocalization made primarily by female birds, while male mallards have a less clear quack call.
Mallards may travel in pairs or in small or medium-sized flocks. Larger flocks are often mixed with other duck species. Mallards are a species of dabbling duck that feeds by tipping forward to forage on aquatic plants in shallow water. These ducks also walk well on land to forage for seeds and insects.
Mallards are generally monogamous but a paired male may pursue other females and the species frequently crossbreeds with other ducks. A mallard pair will produce one brood of 4-15 eggs per year, and the female mallard incubates the nest for 25-30 days. The precocial ducklings leave the nest within a few days and are led to food by the female parent during their 42-50 day nestling period. Family groups may remain together until the next breeding season, and mallards often return to their place of birth for breeding.
Mallards have an easy association with humans but are not common backyard visitors. Backyards that have large ponds or are near natural bodies of water may be visited by these ducks, and backyard birders can tempt them to continue visiting by offering cracked corn or grain on the ground or in low platform feeders.
- American Black Duck (Anus rubripes)
- Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula)
- Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
- Green-Winged Teal (Anas crecca)