STATUS IN THE WILD: Least Concern
RANGE: Northern Hemisphere
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
The male, or drake, is the most distinctively colored of the mallards. Their green head sits atop a white neckband that contrasts with the chestnut-colored chest and gray body. Females are a mottled drab brown in color but sport iridescent purple-blue wing feathers that are visible as a patch on their sides. Both have orange legs and webbed feet. They grow to about twenty-six inches in length and can weigh up to three pounds.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Mallard groups can often be seen with their heads dipping or completely upending themselves in the water. They rarely dive though, spending their time near the surface and dabbling for invertebrates, fish, amphibians, and a variety of plants. They also graze on land, feeding on grains and plants.
Mallards will form pairs in late October to November and will stay together until nesting season in the spring. During the breeding season, both males and females can become very aggressive, driving off competitors to themselves or their mate.
Once ready to nest, the females prefer a place that is well-concealed and inaccessible to ground predators. This can include nesting in urban areas like window ledges, planters or garden beds. Normally the female lays about a dozen eggs, and the incubation period is twenty-four to twenty-eight days. Mallards are territorial during much of this period, but once incubation is well underway, males abandon the nest and join a flock of other males.
Mallard ducks are one of the widest ranging duck on earth. They are a familiar sight for people in the Northern hemisphere.
The mallard inhabits a wide range of habitats and climates, from the Arctic tundra to the subtropical regions. They are found in both fresh and saltwater wetlands, including parks, ponds, rivers, lakes, bays and estuaries. They are occasionally found on the open sea coastline. Overall, they are attracted to bodies of water with aquatic vegetation.
The majority of the diet is plant material, including seeds, stems and roots of a variety of plants. These can include, pondweeds, grasses, smartweeds and acorns. They will also eat insects, crustaceans, tadpoles, earthworms and small fish. Young ducklings eat mostly aquatic insects.