Mallard Duck Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

Mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) is by far the world’s most abundant duck species. It mainly eats submerged plants while pushing its long neck. Male mallard leaves its mate after when she lays eggs. The ducklings keep following their mother and they swim behind her to seek protection. Greenhead and koloa are some other names of these ducks. Mallards are found in nearly all Northern Hemisphere’s temperate zone. Some of these populations have been introduced in Australia and New Zealand.

Mallard Duck Facts

Anatomy of Mallard Duck

  • Mallards are 19.7–25.6 in (50–65 cm) long and weighs up to 1.7–3.5 lb (750–1,580 g).
  • It has a wingspan measuring up to 30 – 40”.
  • They have a prominent green head and brown chest along with blue speculum.
  • Mallards, before hitting the water, spread their feet to push on brakes and flap backwards.
  • As long as the mallard stays on the water, it is safe because falcon hunts only in midair.
  • Mallards are generally aware of falcon and they fly to a safe place before the predator hunts them.
  • The mallard assumes the features of the world’s most successful duck probably because it has extremely versatile body due to which it can cover a wide range of feeding opportunities.
  • The male is known as ‘drake’ while the female is called a ‘duck’. The female is smaller than the male. She is completely different in her appearance in that it displays a brown-streaked plumage to camouflage her as she sits on the nest.
  • There is a sharp nail at the tip of the mallard’s bill which they use to pick tiny animals and graze grass. However they are also able to bring out tiny animals with the help of lamellae (a membrane) which lines the inside of its bill.
  • Mallards are efficient swimmers which they achieve due to their webbed feet.
mallard duck facts
Mallard Duck ©

Mallard Duck Distribution

  • Mallards are fairly widespread throughout the Nearctic. They live in palearctic ranging from Iceland to Kamchatka and south to the Mediterrean.
  • During winters, mallards breed in much of the Pacific coast, Aleutians to California, northeastern Mexico, southern half of the United States, northern Africa, West Indies, and Iraq west to southern China.
  • p. conboschas are found in the coasts of southern Greenland.
  • p. fulvigula lives in the coastal Alabama west to Florida peninsula.
  • p. maculosa inhabits the Gulf coast ranging from Mississippi south to central Tamaulipas, Mexico; they spend winters south to Veracruz.
  • p. laysanensis are common in the Laysan and Hawaiian Islands.
  • As we move from southeastern Arizona to western Texas and south to Mexico.
  • Kauai, Hawaiian Islands, and Oahu are home to A. p. wyvilliana species.

Mallard Duck Habitat

  • Mallards like to swim in shallow and calm waters with lush bankside vegetation. They will make homes in nearly all types of natural and artificial habitats including saltwater and brackish water.
  • They fancy living in land with some vegetative cover.
  • It may not adapt to deepest lakes and open seas.
  • Mallards seldom go far off from breeding grounds but a few of them flies to estuaries in winter. The estuaries are likely to provide abundant food sources and attract hundreds of mallards.
  • Mallards are able to breed in almost every wetland habitats from the smallest pool to the park lake.

Mallard Duck Behavior

  • Mallard ducks are highly territorial but they abandon their mates and territory after incubation.
  • They defend their territories quite aggressively and their habitat range is c. 39.54–274.29 acres (16–111 ha).
  • During courtship, mallards show a typical behavior of grunt-whistle and head-up- tail-up.
  • During non-breeding season, mallard ducks go together in large numbers in flocks consisting of thousands of birds. They participate in the same activity at the same time. Thus the whole flock may bathe, feed, preen or simply rest together.
  • In late winter, they will move in separate groups each to search for appropriate nesting sites. Sometimes in breeding months, mallards do feed in loose flocks
  • They are not scared of humans and thus move around freely in garden ponds, sewage farms, and park lakes.
  • The male produces a weak high-pitched call but do not quack whereas the female mallards quack.
  • Mallards molt their feathers in mid-summer during which they cannot fly for about 4 weeks.
  • These species are forced to live in Iceland all winter because pools go warm by thermal springs.
  • The ducklings have many predators such as snapping turtles, raccoons, and bass.
  • The male mallards will follow females in February and March.
  • Once the female mallard lays a clutch of 9 – 13 eggs the male leaves her and the young. The male will take no part in rearing the young.
  • The ducklings will leave their nest 24 hours after hatching but they will hang out with mother for about 2 months. The ducklings are least likely to reach adulthood.
  • Mallards gather around in large numbers at rich feeding grounds.
  • Mallards are migratory.
mallard duck facts
Mallards flying ©

Mallard Duck Diet and Feeding Ecology

  • Mallard duck is a dabbling duck and it feeds underwater by upending or dipping its head. Mallards occasionally dive but on land it forages by probing and grazing.
  • They have an omnivorous diet. Mallards mainly feed on terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates as well as amphibians, fish, worms, and several plant parts.
  • The mallard employs several different foraging methods to find food. It paddles its feet to search for food on water, snaps the food items up from the surface and then sieves water through the sides of its bill to take out tiny animals.
  • Mallards are known to browse water weed, grab small snails and invertebrates form the bottom. It also grazes short grass on land, browses shoots and eats almost anything including scalps thrown by humans.

Mallard Duck Reproductive Biology

  • Mallards are seasonally monogamous. Depend on region ducks breed in February to June.
  • They nest either on the ground or in a cavity.
  • The female lays 9 – 13 eggs.
  • The incubation lasts 27 – 28 days.
  • The ducklings fledge after 50 – 60 days.
  • Mallards reach maturity at the age of 1 year.
  • The breeding interval is one year.
  • Mallard ducks have a typical lifespan of 29 years in captivity.

Conservation Status of Mallard Ducks

  • Vulnerable: A. p. laysanensis
  • Critically Endangered: A. p. wyvilliana
  • Threatened: A. p. diazi

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