The mallard has a standard duck shaped body. Males and females are sexually dimorphic (look different). The male is easily recognizable during the breeding season with dark green feathers across the head and upper neck. The lower neck is chestnut with a white collar sitting between these two. The rest of the body is covered with rufous feathers on the breast, grey on the flank and black on the rump. Males have a pale yellow beak.
Outside of the breeding season males appear similar to females while they have their eclipse plumage.
Females have brown feathers with buff margins across their entire body. Running across the eye is a brown stripe. Females have a buff beak.
Previously it was believed that the two were separate species. One feature they share is a purple patch of feathers on the speculum.
Both genders have orange legs. Their feet are webbed to help with swimming.
The body of a mallard averages 50-65cm (20-25.5in) long and their weight is between 1 and 1.5kg (2.25-3.25lbs). Their wingspan is 91cm (36in) across.
Mallards are omnivores which feed on plants, seeds, leaves, stems fish eggs and invertebrates.
The mallard is a dabbling duck meaning they turn upside down in the water and feed on food under the water’s surface. They may also graze on land. With the expansion of farming they may be found in grain fields where they eat crops.
Wild 5-10 years
Captive 10 years
Record 27 years
The mallard is a native resident of North America, Europe and Asia. Here they can be found throughout Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda,Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, Cayman Islands, China, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Falkland Islands,Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Republic of, Kiribati, Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Martinique, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia,Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, South Sudan, Spain (Canary Is.), Spain, Sri Lanka, State of Palestine, Sudan, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria,Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States (Hawaiian Is.), Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Viet NamVirgin Islands, U.S., Yemen and Zambia.
Introduced populations of the mallard exist in Australia and New Zealand. Their introduction to Australia occurred in the 1860s. They were introduced to New Caledonia but it is thought they may now be extinct there.
The mallard is highly adaptable and can occur in almost any aquatic habitat. They require shallow water so that they can forage in the water. While they are typically found in freshwater habitats they may be found in brackish water if there is cover. Mallards are able to live in urban areas.
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Breeding takes place from March and June with this varying based on their location.
Mallards come together only to mate and will form a small territory prior to egg laying. The male will remain with the female for a few days after egg laying occurs before leaving her to complete the rest of the incubation on her own.
The pair will form a nest which is a bowl or shallow depression in a range of locations including within vegetation, on the ground or in a tree hollow. They make also make use of the abandoned nest of another species such as herons or crows.
These eggs are incubated by the female for around 1 month. Within a day of hatching the young are taken to the water by their mother.
Nests are placed near water.
They will get their adult plumage at one year old and after this they are sexually mature.
These birds can hybridize with other birds such as the wood duck.
In flight the mallard may reach speeds of up to 64.4km/h (40mph).
Each year they molt their feathers. This means they are unable to fly for 4 weeks.
During parts of the year they will gather in a flock which may include thousands of mallards.
Females may make a loud quacking noise while in flight. Males make low quacks, whistles and grunts.
Predators and Threats
During the breeding season mothers will protect their young by playing dead while a predator is nearby to distract it. This gives the chicks a chance to hide.
The mallard faces a range of threat from humans including habitat degradation and pollution including from petrol and pesticides. Poisoning and hunting pose further threats.
They are also known as the rouen duck.
A male duck is known as the drake while the female is known as a hen.
Some evidence suggests the mallard may have been the first domesticated bird even before the chicken.
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Morcombe, M., 2003. Field Guide To Australian Birds. Archerfield, Qld.: Steve Parish Pub.
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Beardsleyzoo.com. 2020. Mallard Duck | Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. [online] Available at: <http://www.beardsleyzoo.com/project/mallard-duck/> [Accessed 6 November 2020].
Seneca Park Zoo. 2020. Rouen (Mallard) Duck – Seneca Park Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://senecaparkzoo.org/animal-pages/rouen-duck/> [Accessed 6 November 2020].