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Anas platyrhynchos

What do they look like?

Mallards are undoubtedly the most recognized waterfowl in the world. They have a typical duck body with an iridescent blue patch on the wings in both sexes. On males the notable characteristics are the green iridescent feathers on the head and neck and curled black feathers on the tail. Females are uniformly a speckled brown color. The male duck's bill is yellow, while the female's bill is orange with black markings. Both males and females have orange legs, webbed feet, and dark colored eyes.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male more colorful
  • Average mass
    1048.1 g
    36.94 oz
  • Average length
    48.0 cm
    18.90 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    4.068 W

Where do they live?

Mallards can be found in many regions throughout the Northern Hemisphere, native to the Nearctic, Palearctic and Oriental regions. They are the most common duck species of the Northern Hemisphere and are found in Asia, North America, and many islands.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Mallards live in a variety of habitats. Most often they live along waterways with plentiful vegetation, such as marshes, ponds, small lakes, coastal bays, and estuaries. They graze in stubble fields and nest in grasslands away from the water's edge.

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • coastal

How do they reproduce?

Most mallard females breed when they are 1 year old, but they may not have much success; studies show that older females have more success in breeding. Mating occurs from March through June. Females lay from 5 to 14 eggs in a nest on the ground near a body of water. Eggs hatch after 26 to 28 days of incubation.

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Mallards breed once yearly, though sometimes a second clutch is raised, especially if the first clutch failed.
  • Breeding season
    March through June
  • Range eggs per season
    5.0 to 14.0
  • Average eggs per season
  • Range time to hatching
    28.0 (high) days
  • Average fledging age
    8.0 weeks
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1.0 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    365 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1.0 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    365 days

Newly hatched Mallard Ducks are capable of swimming, walking, and communicating with their mother. Once hatched the female leads her ducklings to the water and abandons the nest. The young ducklings stay with their mother for about 8 weeks, then become independent.

How long do they live?

The oldest recorded wild Mallard lived to be 26 years and 4 months old. Most Mallards probably live much less than this, perhaps from 5 to 10 years.

How do they behave?

After the breeding season mallards form groups called flocks and migrate from colder, northern areas to warmer, southern areas. There they wait and feed until the breeding season starts again. Some mallards, however, may choose to stay through the winter in areas where there is enough food and shelter. Mallards are diurnal, which means that they are most active during the day.

How do they communicate with each other?

The familiar "quack" of ducks is from the female mallard--it is called the "decrescendo call", and can be heard for miles. A female will give the call when she wants to bring other ducks to her, such as her ducklings, and as a result it is also known as the "hail call". Mallards also use a variety of other calls to communicate amongst themselves. They have a good sense of vision.

What do they eat?

Mallards consume a wide variety of foods, including aquatic vegetation, insects, and worms, although they are not restricted to these. They also take advantage of human food sources, such as collecting grain from crops.

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Mallards are preyed upon by a wide variety of predators, including humans, raccoons, cats, domestic dog, skunks, weasels, hawks, crows, ravens, magpies, turtles, snakes, and fish. They are watchful and escape to the water when startled, including the young ducklings.

Do they cause problems?

In areas where they are very abundant people may consider Mallards a nuisance as they are noisy and their droppings may accumulate on the ground.

How do they interact with us?

Mallards are an important game bird. The money generated by duck hunting license fees pays for the management of Mallard populations, and those of other ducks, and is used to protect important habitats. Also, money spent on hunting equipment is a significant addition to the economy.

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • food

Are they endangered?

Mallards are the most abundant and widespread of all waterfowl; every year millions are harvested by hunters with little effect on their numbers. The greatest threat to Mallards is loss of habitat, but they easily adapt to human disturbances.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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. "Anas platyrhynchos" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 02, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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