Mallards are large ducks with hefty bodies, rounded heads, and wide, flat bills. Like many “dabbling ducks” the body is long and the tail rides high out of the water, giving a blunt shape. In flight their wings are broad and set back toward the rear.
Male Mallards have a dark, iridescent-green head and bright yellow bill. The gray body is sandwiched between a brown breast and black rear. Females and juveniles are mottled brown with orange-and-brown bills. Both sexes have a white-bordered, blue “speculum” patch in the wing.
Mallards are “dabbling ducks”—they feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. They almost never dive. They can be very tame ducks especially in city ponds, and often group together with other Mallards and other species of dabbling ducks.
Read on for more including photos and some fun facts:
- The Mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds (everything except the Muscovy Duck).
- Mallard pairs are generally monogamous, but paired males pursue females other than their mates. So-called “extra-pair copulations” are common among birds and in many species are consensual, but male Mallards often force these copulations, with several males chasing a single female and then mating with her.
- Mallard pairs form long before the spring breeding season. Pairing takes place in the fall, but courtship can be seen all winter. Only the female incubates the eggs and takes care of the ducklings.
- The standard duck’s quack is the sound of a female Mallard. Males don’t quack; they make a quieter, rasping sound.
- Mallards, like other ducks, shed all their flight feathers at the end of the breeding season and are flightless for 3–4 weeks. They are secretive during this vulnerable time, and their body feathers molt into a concealing “eclipse” plumage that can make them hard to identify.
- The oldest known Mallard lived to be at least 27 years 7 months old.