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Anas platyrhynchos
(Order Anseriformes; Family Anatidae)

Female Mallard.  Photos by Erica Kuhlman, July 2011

Diagnosis: The Mallard is a medium size duck and can be 18 to 27 inches in length. During the breeding season the male has a green head, white neck ring, a gray body and chestnut colored breast. The feathers on the inside of the wing of both adult male and female are a metallic bluish-purple with a white border. The bill is yellow with a black tip. The female is a mottled brown with a white tail. The female has a mottled orange and brown bill rather than the distinctive yellow.

Natural History: The males grunt and whistle, swim, pump their heads, and preen to attract a female. The females spur the males on with loud calls and suggestive body movements; this starts in the fall. The rituals usually occur on the water, but sometimes chase flights may occur. By midwinter the mallard ducks have formed pairs. The mated pair migrate together returning to the female's place of origin. The nest is usually concealed in tall grass or reeds. Once the female lays her eggs, the male abandons her. The female Mallard's clutch usually has 8 to 13 eggs. The ducklings are precocial, which means they can swim and feed themselves right after hatching. They stay close to their mother for protection until they fledge at 50 to 60 days.

Distribution: During the summer the Mallard duck can be found in the north in Alaska and Quebec, then as far south as northern Mexico and Texas.

Habitat: Anas platyrhynchos mostly live in wetlands. They are often found near ponds, lakes, rivers, marshes and sometimes ditches if there is standing water.

Diet: Mallard Ducks are omnivores. They eat invertebrates, fish, or amphibians and sometimes they graze on land eating small plants.

Conservation Status: Not threatened

National Geo Wild:


Johnson, Oscar W. (1961). Reproductive Cycle of the Mallard Duck. The Condor. 63, 351-346.

Image Credits:
Anas platyrhynchos. Photos by Erica Kuhlman, July 2011

Submitted by: Erica Kuhlman, July 2011

Wichita State University
Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
Comments can be sent to Mary Liz Jameson.
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