Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)


Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family:    Anatidae
Size:    Length: 20 to 25 inches (51 to 63.5cm)    Wingspan: 30 to 40 inches (76 to 102 cm)
Weight: 2.2 to 2.6 pounds (1 to 1.2 kg)
Diet: Land and water vegetation, worms, mosquito larvae and insects 
Distribution: North America, Europe and Asia
Young:  8 to 12 ducklings, once a year
Animal Predators:  Birds of prey, cats, dogs, raccoons, opossums, skunks, weasels and martens
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Duckling  Male: Drake  Female: Hen  Group:  Brace or Flock
Lifespan: 5 to 10 years in the wild and up to 29 years in captivity



     The mallard is the best-known wild duck in the Northern Hemisphere.

     Agile fliers, mallards can take off almost vertically.

     Mallards have been known to breed with other species of ducks.

     Mallards can fly extremely quickly, at speeds of up to 60 miles (97 km) per hour.

     The mallard was first bred in captivity by the ancient Egyptians.

     Mallards moult in late summer to early fall, rendering them flightless for approximately 30 days.



Mallards are known throughout their range for the beautiful plumage of the males. Males are greyish-brown on their back and wings, but are distinctive with their bright, shiny green head, yellow beak, orange legs and the striking patch of blue on the wings. They also have a narrow white collar around their neck and two black, curly tail feathers. The females are slightly smaller and also have orange legs and a patch of blue, but the rest of their colouring is more subdued, with specks of brown and beige, and a dark beak. Both genders have a white tail and white underwings. 



Mallards breed in the Northern Hemisphere, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Their wintering grounds extend as far south as Mexico, North Africa and southeast Asia. They live in wetlands, by marshes, lakes, rivers or ponds, where they can find both aquatic and land vegetation for food. In Canada, mallards are most numerous in the prairies. 


Feeding Habits

Mallards eat a variety of food, including both aquatic and ground vegetation as well as worms and insects. They forage on land but also in the water and, although they rarely dive beneath the surface, they often tip forward so that their body is pointed straight down under the surface of the water as they search out food with their beak. Mallards eat mosquito larvae, and are therefore helpful in keeping the mosquito population in check. 



Mallards pair up in fall and are typically monogamous. They usually build a nest on high ground near a lake or marsh. The hen lays her eggs within the nest, which is lined with stems, leaves, feathers and down. Approximately one month later, the ducklings hatch, all within the same 24-hour period. The ducklings are able to swim soon after hatching, and the hen leads them all towards the water as soon as their soft little bodies are dry. They do not return to the nest. They follow their mother on land and water and begin to fly in about two months. 



Mallards migrate south in flocks when the weather begins to get cold, but return in March or April. Usually only the females quackómales more often whistle or gruntóbut when they do quack, it is softer than that of the females. 



Mallards are the most abundant wild ducks in the Northern Hemisphere and there are no conservation concerns about them at this time. 




Mallard Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US 

Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1999). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (1999).