Our Animals - Mallard Duck

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Mallard Ducks at The Farm at Walnut Creek in Ohio

The Mallard, or Wild duck (Anas platyrhynchos), probably the best-known and most recognizable of all ducks, is a dabbling duck which breeds throughout the temperate and sub-tropical areas of North America, Europe, Asia, New Zealand (where it is currently the most common duck species), and Australia. It is strongly migratory in the northern parts of its breeding range, and winters farther south. For example, in North America it winters south to Mexico, but also regularly strays into Central America and the Caribbean between September and May.

The male birds have bright green head, while the female is light brown. The Mallard lives in wetlands, eats water plants, and is gregarious. The Mallard is the ancestor of all domestic ducks, and can interbreed with other species of genus Anas. This interbreeding is causing rarer species of ducks to become genetically diluted.

 

Description

The Mallard is 56–65 cm long, has a wingspan of 81–98 cm, and weighs 0.9–1.2 kg. The breeding male is unmistakable, with a bright green head, black rear end and a yellowish orange (can also contain some red) bill tipped with black (as opposed to the dark brown bill in females). The female Mallard is light brown, like most female dabbling ducks. However, both the female and male Mallards have distinct purple speculum edged with white, prominent in flight or at rest (though temporarily shed during the annual summer moult). In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage the drake becomes drab, looking more like the female, but still distinguishable by its yellow bill and reddish breast.

Mallard Ducks at The Farm at Walnut CreekThe Mallard is a rare example of both Allen's Rule and Bergmann's Rule in birds. Bergmann's Rule, which states that polar forms tend to be larger than related ones from warmer climates, has numerous examples in birds. Allen's Rule says that appendages like ears tend to be smaller in polar forms to minimize heat loss, and larger in tropical and desert equivalents to facilitate heat diffusion, and that the polar taxa are stockier overall. Examples of this rule in birds are rare, as they lack external ears. However, the bill of ducks is very well supplied with blood vessels and is vulnerable to cold.

A noisy species, the male has a nasal call, the female has a "quack" stereotypically associated with ducks.

 

Behavior

Mallard ducks inhabit most wetlands, including parks, small ponds and rivers, and usually feed by dabbling for plant food or grazing, though there are reports of Mallards eating frogs. They will usually, but not always, nest near open water. Mallards are highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and will form large flocks, which are known as a sords.[4]

Mallards form pairs only until the female lays eggs, at which time she is left by the male. The clutch is 8–13 eggs, which are incubated for 27–28 days to hatching with 50–60 days to fledgling. The ducklings are precocial, and can swim and feed themselves on insects as soon as they hatch, although they stay near the female for protection.

 

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