Mallards, Anas platyrhynchos
Mallards are one of the most widespread and familiar duck species globally. Mallards are known for their distinctive green heads, yellow bills, and curly black feathers on their tails. They are also known for their characteristic quacking calls.
Mallards are dabbling ducks. They tip their bodies forward and graze on food items at or near the water’s surface. They commonly forage in freshwater environments such as lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, and wetlands for seeds, aquatic plants, grasses, and grains. They also consume insects, worms, snails, and small fish.
Mallards nest and raise their young in various habitats across North America, Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. In North America, they breed throughout Canada, Alaska, and the contiguous United States. In Europe, they breed across the entire continent, including the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, and Russia. In Asia, their range extends from Siberia to China, Japan, and the Indian subcontinent.
Mallards typically choose nest sites near water bodies. They build nests on the ground, usually concealed within dense vegetation, tall grasses, or near water edges to provide protection from predators. The female constructs the nest using plant materials and lines it with down feathers. Mallards show flexibility in nesting locations and can adapt to a range of environments, including wetlands, marshes, meadows, and even towns and cities with suitable water sources.
After the eggs are laid, the female incubates them for about 26-28 days. Once hatched, the ducklings leave the nest and follow the female to water, where they learn to swim and forage. The female provides protection and guidance to the young until they are capable of independent feeding and flight, which occurs around 50-60 days after hatching.
Mallards in northern North America migrate southwards to regions with milder climates, including the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America. In Europe, they may migrate to southern Europe, the Mediterranean, or remain in milder areas of their breeding range. In Asia, Mallards migrate to various destinations, including Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and as far south as Australia and New Zealand.