The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a dabbling duck that breeds throughout the temperate and subtropical Americas, Eurasia, and North Africa. Mallards live in wetlands, eat water plants and small animals, and prefer to congregate in flocks of varying sizes. Unlike many waterfowl, mallards are considered an invasive species in some regions. It is a very adaptable species, being able to live and even thrive in urban areas. This species is the main ancestor of most breeds of domestic duck, and its naturally evolved wild gene pool has been genetically polluted by the domestic and feral mallard populations.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
An omnivore is an animal that has the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Obtaining energy and nutrients from plant and ani...
Semiaquatic animals are those that are primarily or partly terrestrial but that spend a large amount of time swimming or otherwise occupied in wate...
Waterfowl are certain wildfowl of the order Anseriformes, especially members of the family Anatidae, which includes ducks, geese, and swans. They ...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Congregatory animals tend to gather in large numbers in specific areas as breeding colonies, for feeding, or for resting.
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
Monogamy is a form of relationship in which both the male and the female has only one partner. This pair may cohabitate in an area or territory for...
Flocking birds are those that tend to gather to forage or travel collectively. Avian flocks are typically associated with migration. Flocking also ...
Partial migration is when within a migratory species or even within a single population, some individuals migrate while others do not.
The magnificent mallard is one of the most recognizable bird species around the world. When flying, the bird displays a purplish-blue speculum, which is outlined in white. Males of this species are particularly colorful. Breeding males have a yellow beak, dark brown chest, black and white tail as well as bright green head and neck. They exhibit a white ring at the base of their neck. In addition, the sides of breeding males and most of their wings are gray. On the other hand, the plumage of female mallards and non-breeding males is less vivid and colorful. The overall plumage of female mallards is spotted with tan and brown patches, and the head is a lighter tan, showing dark bands near the crown and eyes. Females have orange-colored beaks, covered with dark spots. Females and non-breeding males generally look alike, though the latter have yellowish beaks.
Mallards are found across the Northern and Southern Hemispheres; in North America, their range extends from southern and central Alaska to Mexico, the Hawaiian Islands, across the Palearctic, from Iceland and southern Greenland and parts of Morocco (North Africa) in the west, Scandinavia and Britain to the north, and to Siberia, Japan, and South Korea. Also in the east, it ranges to south-eastern and south-western Australia and New Zealand in the Southern hemisphere. Mallards are strongly migratory in the northern parts of their breeding range and winter farther south. They live in a wide range of habitats and climates, from the Arctic tundra to subtropical regions. They can be found in both fresh- and salt-water wetlands, including parks, small ponds, rivers, lakes, and estuaries, as well as shallow inlets and open seas within sight of the coastline. Water depths of less than 0.9 m (3.0 ft) are preferred, with birds avoiding areas more than a few meters deep. They are attracted to bodies of water with aquatic vegetation.
Mallards are diurnal birds that spend most of their time feeding. They usually feed by dabbling for plant food or grazing. They are highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and form large flocks, which are known as "sordes". However, during the breeding season, both male and female mallards can become aggressive, driving off competitors to themselves or their mate by charging at them. Males typically fight more than females and attack each other by repeatedly pecking at their rival's chest, ripping out feathers and even skin on rare occasions. Females may also carry out 'inciting displays', which encourage other ducks in the flock to begin fighting. In general, mallards are noisy birds. Females have the deep ‘quack’ stereotypically associated with ducks. Males make a sound phonetically similar to that of the female, a typical ‘quack’, but it is deeper and quieter compared to that of the female. When incubating a nest, or when offspring are present, females vocalize differently, making a call that sounds like a truncated version of the usual ‘quack’. In addition, females hiss if the nest or offspring are threatened or interfered with. When taking off, the wings of a mallard produce a characteristic faint whistling noise.
Mallards are omnivores and eat both plants and animal matter. On one hand, they consume insects, worms, gastropods, and arthropods; on the other hand, they feed upon diverse vegetation, occasionally using human food sources, including gleaning grain from crops.
Mallards have a monogamous mating system. However, they widely practice so-called “extra-pair copulation”, and paired males are known to chase females that are not their mates. Nesting starts in April, reaching its peak in May. During this period, mated pairs are seen circling in the evenings low over the habitat and looking for a suitable nesting site. When the site is chosen, the female constructs the nest on the ground, near a water body, laying 9-13 eggs, which are incubated for 26-28 days. Chicks of this species are precocial; once born, they are able to swim, being introduced to water within 12 hours after hatching. Right after mating, male mallards usually leave, gathering into male flocks for molting in early June, while the females stay with the offspring, caring for the chicks for 42-60 days. Both males and females reach reproductive maturity at 1 year of age.
Major threats to their population include degradation and drainage of the wetland habitat, reed bed burning and mowing, pollution as well as extraction of peat in some areas of their range. Presently, mallards suffer from alteration of wetland management practices such as decreased grazing and mowing in meadows, which causes over-growth of scrub. In certain areas of their habitat, the birds occasionally ingest lead shot. In addition, being a game species in the USA, mallards are exposed to hunting.
According to IUCN Red List, the total population size of the mallard is more than around 19,000,000 individuals. The European population consists of 2,850,000-4,610,000 pairs, which equates to 5,700,000-9,220,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are increasing.