Common Name: Mallard.
Scientific Name: Anas Platyrhynchos.
What to look for? The glossy green head and yellow bill of the mallard duck may be a familiar sight to many of you. The male, or drake, is the more distinctively colored of the mallards. Its iconic green head sits atop a white neckband that sets off a chestnut-colored chest and gray body. Females are a mottled drab brown in color, but sport iridescent purple-blue wing feathers that are visible as a patch on their sides.
Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? You can find Mallards around here off and on throughout the year depending upon temperatures and open water (i.e., not frozen). They may be seen spending some time in our ponds or flying over during seasonal migration.
How big are they? The Mallard averages around two feet in length. And their wingspan is approximately three feet. They weigh in at around 2 ½ pounds.
What are their flight patterns? Mallards are strong, elegant and fast fliers. In flight their wings are broad and set back toward the rear. Migrating flocks of Mallards have been estimated traveling at 55 miles per hour. Like most migratory birds, mallards fly in the famous V-formation. During winter migration, mallards fly south in search of warm weather, often resting at the same spots year after year. Migrating mallards can travel great distances, relying on rivers, coasts, and valleys to find their way.
How else do they behave? Mallards are “dabbling ducks” - they feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. They almost never dive. Like many “dabbling ducks” the body is long and the tail rides high out of the water, showing their blunt shape. In their more natural settings and where Mallards are heavily hunted, they can be very wary of approaching people. Because of constant feedings by people, Mallards are an abundant in city and suburban parks, where they can become very tame and approachable.
What’s for dinner? Mallards are generalist foragers and will eat a wide variety of food. They don’t dive, but “dabble” to feed, tipping forward with their heads in the water to eat seeds and aquatic vegetation. They also roam around on the shore and pick at vegetation and prey on the ground. During the breeding season, they eat mainly animal matter including aquatic insect larvae, earthworms, snails and freshwater shrimp. During migration, many Mallards consume largely agricultural seed and grain.
Where do they take up residence? Mallards can be found in almost any body of freshwater across North America, Asia and Europe. Mallards can live in almost any wetland habitat - natural or artificial. Look for them on lakes, ponds, marshes, rivers, and coastal habitats as well as city and suburban parks and residential backyards.
When and where do they breed and nest? Mallards nest on the ground on dry land that is close to water; nests are generally concealed under overhanging grass or other vegetation. Occasionally, Mallards nest in agricultural fields. Pairs form in fall and winter and migrate to and breed in the northern parts of their range. They normally lay about a dozen eggs. A little more than a day after hatching, ducklings can run, swim, and forage for food on their own. A group of ducklings is called a brood. Outside the nest, the brood sticks close by the mother for safety, often following behind her in a neat, single-file line – as you may see on Carillon Stonegate Pond.
Where do they migrate? Migration occurs in early spring and in the fall. Since pairs form in fall and winter, the male probably follows the female to the breeding areas. Mallards migrate along numerous corridors, but the greatest concentrations move from Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada through the Midwestern United States to their wintering sites along the Mississippi Flyway from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to the Gulf of Mexico.
What is their conservation status? There is low concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the Mallard has seen slight increases in populations. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 19 million.
Do they make any interesting sounds? The quintessential duck’s “quack” is the sound of the female mallard. The male does not quack; instead he gives a quieter, rasping call. Here is a link to the sounds of the Mallard.
Interesting Facts About the Mallard:
The Mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds.
Ducks are strong fliers; migrating flocks of Mallards have been estimated traveling at 55 miles per hour.
When you think of a duck’s quack, it is the sound of a female Mallard. Males do not make a quack sound.
Mallards, like other ducks, shed all their flight feathers at the end of the breeding season and are flightless for 3–4 weeks.
Many species of waterfowl form hybrids with a wide variety of other ducks and Mallards are particularly known for this.
The oldest known Mallard was approximately 28 years old.
For more information on the Mallard and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society and National Geographic. And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.
The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.
Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!