Mallard Duck

The Mallard Duck is the king of city parks.  It is the ancestor of most domestic ducks except the Muscovy.  It commonly interbreeds in these city parks, where all sorts of unusual combinations of colors and patterns can be found in the hybrids! Mallard Duck|Oso Flaco Lake|Guadalupe, CA   They keep constant watch so a predator won’t surprise them.  Each mallard in the flock will open his eyes at intervals when roosting in a dangerous place.

Description

The Mallard Duck is the most common of the North American Ducks.  The male has a bright green head, white neck band, rusty breast, pale grey body and a violet blue speculum bordered in white. He has black central tail feathers which curl up (“Duck Tail”).  His beak is yellow and his legs are orange.   The female Mallard is a mottled brown with a dark line through the eye.  Like the male, she also has a violet blue speculum bordered in white.  However, she has a white tail and her beak is orange mottled with brown. Her legs and feet are orange.   Juvenile Mallards and eclipse males resemble the female.

Range and Habitat

The Mallard Duck is found in Alaska, Quebec and south to California, Texas, Virginia and northern Mexico.  The mallard winters throughout the United States, south to Central America and the West Indies.  They are often found with Black Ducks and Pintails in fresh marshes, irrigated fields, ponds, rivers, lakes and bays.

Behavior

The Mallard are surface feeding ducks and tip up to feed.  They eat some mollusks, insects and small fish. They can also be found grazing on land.  They are very agile flyers and can take off vertically.  The female’s voice is a loud quack, quack, quack, while the male makes a low quack or a short raspy whistle.

Breeding and Nesting

The male begins courting the female in the fall and by mid-winter pairs have formed. After they mate, the pairs migrate together to the where the female was hatched. The male has to keep a good eye out on her in case another male comes too close to his mate, especially before the eggs are laid. The male stays near to  the female until she is well into incubation, and then leaves to join other males to molt. The nest is hidden in vegetation usually far from the water or sometimes in a tree.  It is a down-filled hollow filled with 8-10 greenish buff eggs.  Studies have shown that Mallard ducklings hear their mother’s voice before hatching and will follow her call after hatching. Ducklings are able to walk, swim, preen and feed themselves insects as soon as they hatch.  The ducklings stay with the female for 7-8 weeks until they fledge.  To keep together, the female communicates with soft quacks and the ducklings answer with a shill piping sound.  That way she can tell if one is missing.

Photo Gallery Mallard Duck