Outdoor enthusiasts love the sight of a mallard duck out in the wild.
Whether it’s through hunting, or just simply admiring, ducks are a popular sight to see. However, there’s a lot people don’t know about the infamous mallard. It is the most widespread and familiar species of duck. It is also the ancestor of most domestic duck breeds.
Here’s a list of 10 facts about the mallard you may not know. It goes well beyond the simple facts that they’re a type of duck and they can fly.
Mallards Mating and Routines
Mallards are a loving breed. This meaning, they tend to mate for life. When they find the one, they don’t let it fly away too far.
“I see it in the band reports I review. I will sometimes see consecutive numbers on birds collected on the same day, and they are male and female. I once banded a pair of breeding mallards on a wood duck pond we boom-netted. We banded them right with the rest of the wood ducks. Six years later, we netted the same mallard pair,” Dr. Chris Nicolai, a chief waterfowl scientist said, according to Outdoor Life.
Male and female mallard ducks are aggressive in their breeding. They will charge at other ducks to drive out competitors. They will even go as far as pecking at another mallard’s chest, ripping out feathers and skin.
While mallards mate for life, that life may not be very long. Once a mallard is an adult the odds of a pair making it through one year together is 49%.
Male vs. Female
The male duck is known as the drake. It has a more distinct coloring. This includes the iconic green head, chestnut-colored chest area, and an overall grey body.
The female ducks, however, are more brown in color. They do have distinct purple-blue feathers on their wings.
According to National Geographic, a female mallard can grow to 26 inches in length and will weigh about three pounds.
The standard “quack” of a duck is female. Males make a little rasping sound instead.
A mallard is quite common, however the population trend is currently decreasing.
Mallards are common in any kind of freshwater throughout North American, Asia, and Europe. They can also be found in wetlands.
They are strongly migratory animals. This means mallards in the U.S. will migrate to the southern parts of the country or even Mexico during colder months.
Mallards can really live in a number of different aquatic areas. However, they will avoid deeper bodies of water typically.
The Mallard Menu
Mallards are quite flexible in what they choose to eat. Typically they choose habitats based on what kind of aquatic vegetation is available to eat.
The duck will eat gastropods, insects, worms, seeds and plants. Plants are typically the main dish for a mallard duck.
However, many people don’t know that they will also eat just about anything they can get their little bills on. This even means fish (typically smaller like minnows) that are in shallow water. Some will even eat larger five-inch fish.
Mallards and Hunters
For mallards, the hunter is not their best friend. However, hunting ducks, specifically a drake, is extremely popular.
Hunters are only permitted to shoot about 10% of the mallard population each year. It is carefully managed to make sure not too many are being killed each year.
Hunters are also picky on whether they shoot the male or female. In fact, it is the only species of duck with a hen limit. This is based on opinion, not science.
Strong Flying Game
Mallards are aggressive when it comes to mating. They are also aggressively fast in the sky.
According to All About Birds, migrating flocks can travel at 55 miles per hour through the sky.
A young mallard begins flying at about three or four months of age. This is when the wings are fully developed.
Mallard Hybrid Duck
According to The Spruce, something called the mallard hybrid is quite common. This is essentially when they crossbreed with other duck species.
This results in different markings and colorings, often making identification more difficult. However, odd tufts of feathers or more brown coloring can be a good indication of a hybrid.
The Duck Stamp Funding
Mallards are given a certain level of protection from humans. They also receive funding for protection from the federal duck stamp.
Basically, anyone over the age of 16 hunting waterfowl must purchase a duck stamp. A large portion of the sales goes toward protecting habitats for many waterfowl animals. Hunters also aren’t the only ones that purchase these stamps.
Bird watchers and stamp collectors will buy them too. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, it is one of the easiest ways to get into wildlife and habitat conservation.
Oldest Mallard to Ever Live
These ducks don’t typically have a long lifespan. This is why one living until the age of 27 is pretty unheard of.
According to All About Birds, the oldest mallard was a male. It was shot in Arkansas in 2008. He was previously banded in Lousiana in 1981.
Darker Colored Legs
A part of the reason people find mallards so interesting is due to their interesting coloring.
One interesting fact is that the drakes’ legs actually become a more vibrant shade of red during the later part of the season. The bills will also become a more intense orange color. It all has to do with hormones and the breeding season. The “northern mallard” is not its own species, rather it’s a nickname of sorts.
A mallard also appears in the same basic form no matter where it is in the world, whether it’s in North America or Moscow.